Sunday, April 12, 2009

Papa Clem no longer second-best

Mary Rampellini, Daily Racing Form

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Papa Clem, who in his last two starts played runner-up to top Kentucky Derby candidates Pioneerof the Nile and Friesan Fire, picked up a major prep win of his own on Saturday when he drove past pacesetter and even-money favorite Old Fashioned to win the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

Old Fashioned held second, a half-length behind the winner. It was another three-quarters of a length back in third to Summer Bird.

The Arkansas Derby closed out the meet at Oaklawn Park, with a crowd of 55,913 roaring as the horses loaded into the starting gate for the 1 1/8-mile race. Papa Clem ($10) broke well and was content to let Old Fashioned move to the lead, settling in fourth as the favorite led through fractions of 22.65 seconds, 46.19, and 1:11.15. Papa Clem began to move up on the final turn, drew even with Old Fashioned into the stretch, and dug in to cover the distance on a fast track 1:49.01.

Rafael Bejarano rode the winner for Bo Hirsch and trainer Gary Stute.

Papa Clem, who is based in Southern California, was sent to the Midwest last month to test his skills on dirt and in his first start he finished second to Friesan Fire on a sloppy track in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. One start earlier, he was second to Pioneerof the Nile in the Grade 2 Lewis at Santa Anita.

Papa Clem earned $600,000 for his win Saturday, which was more than enough graded money to secure him a spot in the starting gate for next month's Kentucky Derby. The race has been a goal for the horse, who is named for the late California racing giant Clement Hirsch.

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