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.
'Payton' dominates Instant Racing
Payton d'Oro became the latest daughter of Medaglia d'Oro to win a stakes at the Oaklawn meet, when she proved much the best in the $75,000 Instant Racing for 3-year-old fillies.
Payton d'Oro ($5) broke well and settled in third as Belong Again and Mindy Sue raced together through fractions of 23.08 and 47.34. Payton d'Oro overtook the pair three-wide approaching the quarter pole and then went on to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Mindy Sue. Payton d'Oro covered the mile in 1:37.82.
"I really had a lot of horse," said Terry Thompson, who rode the winner for trainer Larry Jones and following the race was recognized as the meet's leading jockey.
Payton d'Oro joins Rachel Alexandra, the probable favorite for the Kentucky Oaks, and She's Our Annie has daughters of Medaglia d'Oro who have won stakes this meet.
The win was her third straight and first in a stakes. She races for John Ferris and Mike Pressley.
Dance Caller wires Northern Spur
Dance Caller was powerful on the front end in the $75,000 Northern Spur, when he set a quick pace and comfortably held off several late challengers for a 1 1/4-length win over Uno Mas. It was another head back in third to Fufty Too.
Dance Caller ($18.60) took it to them from the start of the one-mile race for 3-year-olds in which he was up by a length through fractions of 22.64, 45.79, and 1:10.98. He went on to cover the distance in 1:37.64 in what was his two-turn debut.
"I know he can go a mile now," said Frank Fletcher, who owns Dance Caller.
Dance Caller had turned in a sharp, front-running allowance win at 6 furlongs earlier in the meet. Larry Sterling Jr. rode the horse for trainer Bob Holthus. Fletcher said next-race plans are to be determined for Dance Caller, who with the close of Oaklawn will ship to Kentucky with Holthus.
The Northern Spur was his first career stakes win. He has now won 3 of 8 starts and $135,800.