Bo Hirsch's Papa Clem proved again that California-based 3-year-olds are at home anywhere in the country when he rallied from fifth and wore down Fox Hill Farm's favored Old Fashioned to win Saturday's 73rd running of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (Grade II) before a crowd of 55,193 at Oaklawn Park.
With the victory, Papa Clem punched his ticket to the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) at Churchill Downs on May 2. Jockey Rafael Bejarano was aboard the winner for trainer Gary Stute, and Papa Clem covered 1 1/8-miles in 1:49 over a "fast" track. Summer Bird finished third and Rebel (GIII) winner Win Willy was fourth.
It appeared immediately after the race that both Papa Clem and Old Fashioned would head to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, but plans for the latter changed later when the son of Unbridled's Song was lame as he cooled out after the race. The onetime Kentucky Derby favorite was found to have suffered a non-displaced slab-fracture of the right knee.
Trainer Larry Jones said the injury would require surgery and is not considered life-threatening, but Old Fashioned's racing career appears to be over.
"He's going back with our horses to Kentucky and we'll look to have him surgically treated once we get there," Jones said. "Horses with that kind of injury sometimes come back, but rarely at the level at which he competed."
Jones, the trainer of the last two runners-up in the Kentucky Derby in Hard Spun and the ill-fated Eight Belles, still has a Kentucky Derby contender in his barn in Vinery and Fox Hill's Louisiana Derby (GII) winner Friesan Fire. He said Old Fashioned was scheduled to be taken to Lexington's Rood and Riddle equine hospital for further examination and surgery.
Meanwhile, Stute - the son of veteran California trainer Mel Stute - is making plans for his first Kentucky Derby starter. Stute's father won the 1986 Preakness (GI) with Snow Chief.
"Up until today, the Preakness was the happiest day of my life," Stute said. "He (Papa Clem) just doesn't want to get beat. He has a ton of heart."
Papa Clem, who is scheduled to travel to Churchill Downs on Tuesday, had finished second in his two previous starts to Friesan Fire in the Louisiana Derby and Pioneerof the Nile in Santa Anita's Robert B. Lewis (GII).
Trainer Tim Ice said third-place finisher would not be pointed to the Kentucky Derby, and would likely be pointed toward the Lone Star Derby (GIII) and Belmont Stakes (GI).
Trainer Mac Robertson said a Derby bid was "possible" for Win Willy.
"We'll see in about a week how he's doing and how the rest are doing," Robertson told Daily Racing Form.
KENTUCKY/GENERAL QUARTERS SURPRISES IN TOYOTA BLUE GRASS - Owner-trainer Tom McCarthy has trained horses off and on for most of his life, but never has the 72-year-old former school teacher and high school principal enjoyed a moment like Saturday's victory by 14-1 shot General Quarters in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland.
McCarthy had claimed the son of Sky Mesa out of his career debut last May at Churchill Downs for $20,000. General Quarters earned $465,000 for his first-place finish in the Blue Grass, in which he defeated favorite and runner-up Hold Me Back by 1 ½ lengths under jockey Eibar Coa. Massone, the only 3-year-old in the field of 11 not nominated to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown, was third, and Terrain closed to be fourth.
"I can't tell you what was going through my mind," said McCarthy. "I don't think there's a word that describes it. I felt a sense of euphoria, a sense of well-being. It's hard to describe. It's a feeling I've never had in my life."
McCarthy had been a principal at three Louisville area high schools, but always dabbled with horses. He has won a relative handful of races, none of which possessed anything close to the prestige and value of the Blue Grass.
The victory by General Quarters improved his career record to 3-3-1 in 11 races and pushed his lifetime earnings to $641,735.
Hall of Fame Trainer Bill Mott said runner-up Hold Me Back would go on to the Kentucky Derby, while trainer Al Stall Jr. said no decision had been made on Terrain's Derby status.
Previously unbeaten Charitable Man finished seventh in the race, one spot ahead of British-based Mafaaz, the winner of the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes who already has a guaranteed spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate on Derby Day. Trainer John Gosden said after the race that he was unsure of the colt's status for a Kentucky Derby bid.
Square Eddie To Return in Coolmore Lexington - J. Paul Reddam's Square Eddie, runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (GI) and winner of Keeneland's Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (GI), is set to return to the Lexington track and the Kentucky Derby trail with a run in next Saturday's $300,000 Coolmore Lexington (GII).
Square Eddie worked six furlongs in 1:12.20 on Saturday over the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park and is scheduled to ship to Kentucky on Tuesday. He has been away from competition since January because of a cannon bone injury.
Godolphin Horses Clear Quarantine - Two Kentucky Derby contenders for Dubai-based Godolphin - Desert Party and Regal Ransom - cleared quarantine at Churchill Downs on Saturday and moved into Barn 41, where they will continue to train toward the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby.
The colts are the first Godolphin horses to attempt the Derby since 2002.
CALIFORNIA/SMITH GETS TEST DRIVE ON CHOCOLATE CANDY - Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Mike Smith had a "get acquainted" session on Sunday with Chocolate Candy, the runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) who will be his ride in this year's renewal of the "Run for the Roses" on May 2 at Churchill Downs.
Smith was in the saddle as Jenny Craig's homebred son of Candy Ride worked five furlongs in :59.20 over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Chocolate Candy would travel to Kentucky on Tuesday and work twice at Churchill Downs.