Bo Hirsch’s Papa Clem, fourth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (gr. I) and sixth in the Preakness Gr. I), is looking to get back on the winning track in the $175,000 Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park July 11.
The colt was shipped to Monmouth from Santa Anita 10 days ago to prepare for the 1 1/16-mile race as a prelude to the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) on Aug. 2, and trainer Gary Stute says Papa Clem needs a win here.
“I’d like to get a win into him,” Stute said. “We have to build his confidence again.”
Papa Clem has come a long way in a short time for Stute. He broke his maiden on Dec. 29 and quickly developed into a serious Triple Crown candidate. Right off that maiden score, the Smart Strike colt finished second in the Robert Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita and second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II).
In April, he won his final Kentucky Derby prep when he smoked a good field in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II). Summer Bird, who went on to win the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), was third in that race.
But Papa Clem has not won since that Oaklawn Park race on April 11, so the Long Branch will be a serious test, and Stute is taking the race seriously. He breezed his star over the Monmouth track June 29 with jockey Elvis Trujillo aboard. The colt worked in 1:03.40, which was all right with the trainer.
“He got a feel for the track,” Stute said, “and he came back fine, which is what I wanted to see.”
Papa Clem was held off the pace in both the Derby and Preakness, but Stute expects him to be in the forward mix on Saturday.
“Originally, everybody thought of him as a speed horse,” the trainer said. “He led most of the way in the Louisiana Derby before finishing second. I’m sure he’ll be fairly close to the lead in the Long Branch.”
Others in the field include two coupled entries, with Kelly Breen saddling George and Lori Hall’s Atomic Rain and Rapid Redux, and Nick Zito sending out Santana Six and Nowhere to Hide from My Meadowview Farm.
Todd Pletcher, who has won the Haskell twice, has Stronach Stables’ Lord Justice in the Long Branch. The colt won the Spend a Buck Stakes at Monmouth May 30 as his prep for this event.
Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out the lightly raced Omniscient looking for his first stakes score, and the Pulpit colt will have a new rider for this race in Calvin Borel.
Mike Trombetta ships in another late-developing colt in Despite the Odds, who has won three of his four starts, including the Hill Prince Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont last month.