Papa Clem's last win came in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) nine months ago, but the Gary Stute-trained son of Smart Strike could be the horse to beat in a wide-open San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Jan. 16.
The $150,000 event, the seventh race on the card, is one of three graded stakes on the Santa Anita program, following the $100,000 San Rafael (gr. III) for 3-year-olds and the $150,000 Santa Ynez (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies.
The 1 1/16-mile San Fernando, the second leg of Santa Anita's Strub series for 4-year-olds, lacks a clear standout among the eight entrants. Though he's light on victories, Papa Clem finished third in the opening-day Malibu Stakes (gr. I), the first leg of the series, and the first two finishers -- runaway winner M One Rifle and Misremembered -- are passing.
In addition, Papa Clem appears to be rounding back into top form. He drilled a half mile in 47 seconds flat prior to entries being taken on the morning of Jan. 13. It was his fourth consecutive bullet drill since the Malibu.
“I thought he was a little short last time," Stute said after watching the workout. "Hopefully, he should be fit this time. I need to win one, I know that.”
Though he ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and has been banging heads with the best of his generation for nearly a year, Papa Clem has but two victories in 12 starts while amassing $1,031,190 in career earnings. His only other win came in a one-mile maiden race at Santa Anita on Dec. 29, 2008. He followed that with seconds in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) before he won the Arkansas Derby, defeating Old Fashioned and Summer Bird.
In his first sprint since he was a maiden, Papa Clem finished 2 3/4 lengths behind M One Rifle in the seven-furlong Malibu after pressing the pace. Owned and bred in Kentucky by Bo Hirsch, he'll be ridden by Tyler Baze, who was aboard last time.
Rendezvous upset the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) field at 22-1 on the grass Sept. 6 for his only stakes win and is returning to the main track visit after five consecutive turf races. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who owns the son of Victory Gallop in partnership with Team Green and George Todaro, Rendezvous ran third in last year's El Camino Real Derby (gr. III).
Rendezvous, who will be reunited with Rafael Bejarano, has an overall record of 4-2-4 in 15 starts for earnings of $340,505.
Bob Baffert trainee Mythical Power, by Congaree , showed little in the Malibu, finishing 10th of 13. But Mythical Power, off since winning the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) by 7 1/2 lengths at the San Fernando distance in May, doubtless needed the race to be ready for this spot.
To be ridden by Joel Rosario, Mythical Power will share co-high weight of 120 pounds with Papa Clem and Rendezvous. He comes into the race with earnings of $458,000 from a 2-2-1 record in six starts.
Also coming out of the Malibu is seventh-place finisher Smart Bid . Augustin Stable's Pennsylvania homebred won Oak Tree's seven-furlong Damascus Stakes Nov. 7 for Graham Motion.
Quindici Man brings a three-race winning streak to the San Fernando, most recently capturing the Zia Park Derby for trainer Craig Lewis Dec. 5.
Gallant Son made a successful return to action on opening day Dec. 26 for trainer Frank Lucarelli, but not in the Malibu. Instead, the son of Malabar Gold charged from off the pace to take second, one length behind The Usual Q. T., in the Sir Beaufort (gr. IIIT) on turf. That was Gallant Son's first start since being injured in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 4.
Baffert also entered Viscount, who makes his graded stakes debut for Peachtree Stable with Garrett Gomez aboard.
Mr. Hot Stuff, a full brother to Colonel John , seeks to snap a nine-race losing streak.
The series concludes with the Strub Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 6.
$150,000 San Fernando Stakes (gr. II, Race 7, 3:36 p.m.), 4YOs, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Smart Bid (PA), M E Smith, 118, H G Motion
2. Viscount (KY), G K Gomez, 116, B Baffert
3. Rendezvous (KY), R Bejarano, 120, J Hollendorfer
4. Papa Clem (KY), T Baze, 120, G Stute
5. Mr. Hot Stuff (KY), J Talamo, 116, E G Harty
6. Mythical Power (KY), J Rosario, 120, B Baffert
7. Gallant Son (KY), A O Solis, 116, F Lucarelli
8. Quindici Man (KY), V Espinoza, 118, C A Lewis