01/21/2010 1:00AM

Q&A: Christophe Clement

Barbara D. Livingston
"I just enjoy being able to work for a great group of owners and having a great team to work with every day," Clement says.

Trainer of Gio Ponti, who Monday night was named the Eclipse Award winner as champion older male and champion male turf horse, the first horse to win both awards in the same year since John Henry in 1981.

Birthdate: Nov. 11, 1965, in France

Family: wife Valerie, son Miguel, daughter Charlotte

Got into racing because . . . : "My father, Miguel, was a trainer in France. He's the reason I got into racing. I always wanted to train horses."

How gratifying was it to have Gio Ponti nominated for, and win, two awards? "It was great. It was nice that he was recognized as more than a nice turf horse."

Is he the best horse you've trained? "Yes. He keeps performing at an amazing level, from a mile to a mile and three-eighths. And even though he got beat in the Breeders' Cup, he ran a very good race."

Best horse you've seen: "I used to always say Allez France, but Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, maybe they are the best. They rank right up there with Allez France. They were remarkable last year."

How did you end up in the United States? "I first came here in 1986 and worked at Taylor Made Farm, and then I worked for Shug McGaughey. I thought it was a good idea to work with people in different parts of the world. Then I returned to Europe and worked for Luca Cumani for four years, and then I came back here in the fall of 1991. I thought the United States offered more opportunities to get more horses more quickly than in Europe."

You must be happy with how things have gone: "I'm delighted. I'd still like to win the next race. You're never satisfied. But I'm happy so far and very grateful."

You have a clean record as a trainer. No medication violations. Is that something you take pride in? "I'm very proud of that. We are very careful, my staff and all the people working for me."

Greatest career moment: "I just enjoy being able to work for a great group of owners and having a great team to work with every day. Jonathan Sheppard said he had been working for George Strawbridge for 43 years. I've only been working for Castleton Lyons" - the farm of Shane Ryan, the owner of Gio Ponti - "for five or six years, but I hope I'll be training for them for the next 43."

First job: "I worked as a kid for my father and then for Criquette Head. But the first real job I got was at a farm in the south of France, in the Basque country. My older brother Nicholas got me that job."

Person you most admire: "Probably Winston Churchill. He was a leader through adversity. I admire that he was able to lead through tough times."

Favorite thing to do outside racing: "I enjoy cooking. I find it a relaxing thing to do when I come home at night."

Will you go on "Iron Chef"? "No. It's relaxing. Some trainers relax by playing golf. I don't golf."

Last book read: "A book on Louis XIV by a French author."

Favorite movie of all time: "I would say 'Out of Africa.' But I also liked 'Wedding Crashers.'"

Favorite musical artist: "I like all kinds of music. My favorite is probably Enya."

Ambitions: "I know most people say winning the Kentucky Derby, but I just want to continue to have a successful stable and keep my owners happy."