Trainer Gary Stute went “old school” April 25 at Churchill Downs, working his Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner Papa Clem seven furlongs in 1:29 1/5. The trainer, the son and nephew of the legendary training brothers of Mel and Warren Stute (respectively), may give his colt a quarter-mile blowout a day or two before the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Papa Clem headed out of Barn 10A just before 8:30 a.m. and reares as he entered the track after the renovation break. Stute was prepared for that, having sent him to the track with a pony. “He gets to feeling good and bouncing around,” he said.
Once on the track, Bo Hirsch’s homebred son of Smart Strike jogged the wrong way down the backside before turning around to get down to business. His splits for the work were :12 3/5, :24 4/5, :37, :49 3/5, 1:02 2/5, and 1:15 2/5 for six furlongs.
“I thought he went good,” Stute said. “He should be fit. He broke off a little fast and got a little late (tiring), but the whole thing was for him to get a little tired and get something out of the work. The track was a little deep this morning. I figure it will be a little faster on Derby day. They usually speed it up a bit.
“We might blow him out a quarter-mile a day or two before the race,” he said. “This has taken the speed out of him getting him ready for the mile and a quarter. We might get that quarter-mile work into him to get him bouncing when he comes over (for the Derby).”
It was Papa Clem’s second work under the Twin Spires since winning the April 11 Arkansas Derby.
“If you have a sound horse and his conformation is right you can train them a little harder than the other horses,” Stute said. “A lot of people are afraid to train their horses hard. Good horses can be trained hard as long as they’re sound. That can be a good edge.”
Papa Clem, out of the Belong to Me mare Miss Houdini, ran second to Friesan Fire in the March 14 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and second to Pioneerof the Nile in the Feb. 7 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II). On the pace in most of his starts, he rated in fifth in the nine-furlong Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn, kicking to the front turning for home and inching past Old Fashioned to win by a half-length.
“Everyone always thought of him as a speed horse but I never thought of him as a speed horse,” Stute said. “Those half-miles were so slow in those other races that he ended up on the lead. You saw when they actually went fast at Oaklawn Park, he did about the same thing, a first half in about :47.”
Stute said the bay colt got a lot out of the race at Oaklawn, his first over a fast dirt track.
“ It wasn’t just the fact that he won, but the way he did it,” he said. “He had a little trouble going into the first turn and (jockey) Rafael (Bejarano) got him out in a good spot. He got dirt in his face instead of being left alone in first or second with things going his own way. Everything wasn’t just handed to him and he actually had to work for it. I was real happy with that.”