Mike Welsch, writing in the Form and referring to Papa Clem's Arkansas Derby, reports that the colt has certainly given little indication he will be capable of duplicating the effort on Derby Day.
Breaking off at the seven-furlong marker, Papa Clem began at a rapid but certainly not overtaxing pace, getting his opening three furlongs in 36.70 seconds. But by the time he settled into the stretch, it became readily apparent Papa Clem had already begun tossing in the towel. Had to be put under strong urging, with exercise rider Mundo Cedeno throwing several crosses with the reins for encouragement, to cover his second three-eighths in 38.55 seconds, then barely made it to the wire, with Cedeno standing up and patting his exhausted mount a couple of times on the neck as they approached the finish line. [Daily Racing Form]But in Saturday's Kentucky Derby Notes release, trainer Gary Stute says: “The main goal was just to get him tired." Apparently he succeeded. Stute said that Papa Clem could blow out a quarter-mile in the final day or two before the Derby “if he’s biting and kicking.” I'll keep an eye on this one despite Welsch's take on the proceedings. (General Quarters, who'd also gotten the thumbs down from the Racing Form's Clockerman, was reported on Saturday to be striding out more smoothly and appearing much more comfortable.)
Papa Clem is a horse who has all of the qualities I look to see. He's on the improve, possesses tactical speed and has also shown the ability to win from off the pace, has a suitable pedigree, by Smart Strike, from the Derby-successful Raise A Native line, and has run in three races this year, the last one three weeks ago. I mean, that used to be a good thing, right? He's also shown versatility, having run well on Pro-Ride, the slop at Fair Grounds and the fast track in the Arkansas Derby. With all the attention on the synthetic/dirt question, remember that the Churchill surface has its own reputation as one that not every horse takes to, so I consider that to be a plus. Figures to be one of the value propositions I think, perhaps 12, 15-1 or so y'think?
(Also will point that of the three top finishers in the Arkansas Derby, Old Fashioned is retired with an injury, and both Papa Clem and Summer Bird have gotten seriously dissed by Welsch).
At Palm Meadows in Florida, one of the Magna properties which will now have to be sold off separately after last week's court decision blocking the plan to sell it to MI Developments as part of a bundle, Dunkirk worked five furlongs in 1:01.05. Pletcher told Ky Derby Notes:
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the way things have gone as he’s come up to this race,” Pletcher said. “Everything has fallen into place. Every one of his works has taken place when we wanted it to and they have all come off the way we hoped. He’s coming up to the race right and we’re feeling very good about him. We couldn’t be happier.”I saw an article in the Saratogian earlier this week in which Pletcher said that Dunkirk is the furthest along and the most 10-furlong-ready animal he’s had at this time of year.
“I don’t see him as very green at all....He’s been in traffic and had dirt in his face. The horse is very well educated for a lightly raced horse.”The Toddster seems particularly jacked about this one; don't recall him sounding this confident before the Derby. I love the horse myself, and loved his Florida Derby. I'd take him over Quality Road and his quarter cracks without a doubt at this point. But I dunno, I still hate the one race in the ten weeks leading up to the Derby, and his value prospects remain to be seen.
Friesan Fire galloped at Churchill for the first time, and jeez, I hope this horse doesn't win. If he does, off of seven weeks rest, besides the fact that I'll lose all of my Derby bets, we'll start to see tracks moving their preps back like states trying to have the early primaries. How long do you think it would be before a horse makes his three-year old debut on the first Saturday in May?