Updated on 09/17/2011 10:39AM

On dirt, he's not a fish out of water

Christophe Clement, known for his prowess with turf horses, has Dynever on dirt for the Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Go ahead and call Christophe Clement a turf trainer, he doesn't mind. Just to have gained any label at the age of 37 is acknowledgement enough of what Clement has achieved in his relatively brief career.

Since taking out his trainer's license in North America in 1991, Clement has won 567 races, including 86 graded stakes, the most recent coming in last Saturday's Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Handicap at Belmont Park. Seventy-one percent of his starters have been on turf, a surface on which Clement has recorded all five of his career Grade 1 victories.

"It does not affect me whatsoever, I never think about it,' Clement said of being labeled a turf trainer. "I just train and try to win races with whatever I think is going to win. Turf, dirt, I don't care.'

Saturday, Clement will try to win the biggest race of his career when he sends out Dynever in the 135th Belmont Stakes, a race in which Funny Cide will attempt to become Thoroughbred racing's 12th Triple Crown winner.

Clement, a native of Paris, France, is the son of the late trainer Miguel Clement. Christophe's brother, Nicolas, is a trainer in France and won the prestigious Arc de Triomphe in 1990.

Clement arrived in the U.S. in 1986 and worked at Taylor Made Farm. Later that year, he took a job as a hotwalker for Shug McGaughey, who was one year into his private job training for the Phipps family. McGaughey's barn included such stars as Personal Ensign, Polish Navy, and Personal Flag.

Clement credits McGaughey and his assistant, Buzz Tenney, with getting him accustomed to American racing.

In 1988, Clement moved back to Europe, where he planned on training on his own. But the cost of training in England was too much and with his brother training in France, Clement "didn't think France was big enough for two brothers.'

So, at age 25, Clement returned to the U.S. in 1991 with a wife, a child, and five or six horses. Two of those horses - Passagere du Soir and Sardaniya - turned into Grade 2 winners in the winter of 1992, and Clement was off and running.

"I know a lot of people have to wait four, five, six, 10 years to get those kind of horses," Clement said.

Clement's stable earned $1.2 million in 1993, and the barn's earnings increased in seven of the next eight years. He enjoyed his finest year in 2001 when he won 24 stakes, including three Grade 1's. His stable earned $5.55 million. Among his stars that year were England's Legend, Voodoo Dancer, and Forbidden Apple.

Clement, who once trained for the Queen of England, has several owners. His biggest clients are Charles and Susan Harris and Peter Karches. Karches, a retired president and chief operating officer at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and a current New York Racing Association vice chairman, purchased a half-interest in Dynever after the colt finished a fast-closing second in his debut on Feb. 8 at Gulfstream. Clement said Dynever didn't make it to the races at 2 because he was "immature and backwards.'

After the sale, Clement was asked to come up with a program for Dynever, who though being by a noted turf sire, Dynaformer, traces back to dirt winners Ack Ack and Cherokee Rose, winner of the 12-furlong Coaching Club American Oaks. Clement's plan included one race a month - with two breezes in between each race - and ended at the Belmont Stakes. Thus far, the plan has been executed perfectly.

On March 8 at Gulfstream, Dynever won his maiden by 8 1/4 lengths. On April 5, also at Gulfstream, Dynever ran away from the more experienced Supah Blitz in the final furlong to win the Aventura Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths.

Then while many people were trying to talk Clement into running Dynever in the Preakness, Clement stuck to his plan of running in the Lone Star Derby on

May 10. In that race, Dynever raced down on the inside while in sixth position down the backstretch. He appeared hopelessly blocked from the three-eighths pole to the eighth pole. When he found room, he lengthened his stride and won by 1 1/2 lengths.

"He was boxed in all the way and showed a great turn of foot,' Clement said. "In a lot of races he needs an eighth of a mile to get going. The main thing is he's very relaxed. In the race the jock can do whatever you want. It gives great freedom to Edgar [Prado] to ride his own race. I'm a firm believer to go a mile and a half you can't be fighting him.'

Dynever figures to go off the third choice behind Funny Cide and Empire Maker in the Belmont. Having yet to face the best horses of his generation, Dynever has yet to be tested, making him the wild card in the race.

"At the end of the day, Funny Cide has won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and no matter what people tell me he's the one to beat,' Clement said. "I thought he beat Empire Maker better in the Derby than Empire Maker beat him in the Wood. Where do we fit compared to him? I don't know.'

Prado, who foiled War Emblem's Triple Crown bid last year aboard 70-1 shot Sarava, is looking forward to finding out.

"He gets better with each race,' Prado said. "I think he has the potential to be as good as any 3-year-old I have ridden.'