Papa Clem training at Churchill Downs

Papa Clem training at Churchill Downs

Reed Palmer Photography

Oh Papa! Papa Clem in :34 Blowout

Arkansas Derby winner gets an old-school Derby workout

In an "old school" move, trainer Gary Stute sent out his Papa Clem for a three-furlong blowout at Churchill Downs two days before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Under jockey Rafael Bejarano, the son of Smart Strike threw down a :34 clocking, and was caught "galloping out" in :46 1/5 by Stute.

“I had 33 and four,” Stute said back at Barn 10A of the bold move. “It was exactly what I wanted. What I wanted was a real good quarter and a gallop out in three eighths and that’s what we got.”

Stute said he got the Bo Hirsch’s homebred colt’s first quarter in :21 3/5.

“I wanted to let him roll,” Stute said. “The last few works he was kind of goofing around and I wanted him to concentrate down the lane, so that’s why I broke him off at the quarter pole because I wanted him to be focused down the lane. I think I accomplished that.”

On April 25 over a dry, loose surface, Papa Clem worked seven furlongs in 1:29 1/5 under Tony Romero. The work for April 30, which took place well before the renovation break, was over a surface tamped down by recent rains. It has been producing much faster work times.

“It’s always kind of deep when you first get here,” Stute said. “The few times I’ve been here, and watching it on TV, usually Derby day it’s pretty firm and tight. A lot of people have been worried about the way he’s been handling the track, but to be honest, I wasn’t.”

Another thing Stute isn’t worried about is his rider.

“If it was a fantasy jockey league and I had first pick in the draft, I’d take Rafael Bejarano,” Stute said. “There are a lot of great riders in the race, but he’s in the ‘zone.’ I couldn’t be happier.”

Papa Clem won the Arkansas Derby under Bejarano by a half-length over Old Fashioned. Prior to that he was second to Pioneerof the Nile  in the Feb. 7 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita and second behind Friesan Fire  in the March 14 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds. He’s won two of six starts and has earned $790,940.