HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Papa Clem earned a spot in the Kentucky Derby — and beat a horse once considered a favorite for the race.
Papa Clem won the $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday, holding off Old Fashioned in the stretch for his first victory since December.
Old Fashioned suffered a possible career-ending injury in the race and has been ruled out of the Kentucky Derby, according to DRF.com.
Old Fashioned emerged from the race with a non-displaced slab fracture to his right knee, trainer Larry Jones told DRF. The horse is scheduled to ship Monday to Lexington, where he could have surgery at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital.
"It's not life-threatening, it should be OK," Jones told the Web site. "Career-ending is a possibility just because of the type of horse he is. But we'll see. We'll let them make that call."
After second-place finishes in California and Louisiana, Papa Clem came from behind at Oaklawn Park to win by a half-length. He'll now have enough graded stakes earnings to qualify for the Run for the Roses in three weeks.
"He has done everything so perfect here at Oaklawn," trainer Gary Stute said. "He doesn't want to get beat. He has a ton of heart."
Old Fashioned began the year on everybody's list of top 3-year-olds. He finished second in the Rebel Stakes last month to 56-1 shot Win Willy, the first loss of his career.
Old Fashioned was the even-money favorite Saturday. He broke toward the front immediately and held the lead for a while, but like the Rebel, this race started at a quick pace. Old Fashioned was right at the front, finishing the first quarter-mile in 22.65 seconds on the fast track. He showed impressive stamina down the stretch, but 4-1 choice Papa Clem passed him to win the 11⁄8-mile race in 1:49.01.
Papa Clem took second in the Louisiana Derby last month, finishing 7¼ lengths behind Friesan Fire, another horse trained by Jones.
Long shot Summer Bird (26-1) closed impressively to take third. Trainer Tim Ice said his horse could be a Belmont Stakes possibility.
Papa Clem earned $600,000 for the victory, pushing his graded stakes earnings to $760,000, good for sixth place on the list compiled by Churchill Downs.
Papa Clem finished a close second in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita in early February before another second-place showing in Louisiana. Perhaps he's peaking at the right time?
"We had a little trouble on the first turn when my horse got out, so I lost position and was wide," said Rafael Bejarano, Papa Clem's jockey. "On the second turn Papa Clem came up with a real good move, and we were able to outfinish the favorite."
Stute said he considered entering Papa Clem in the Illinois Derby but opted to come to Arkansas when it was clear Old Fashioned wasn't invincible.
"When I saw Old Fashioned get beat in the Rebel, I knew we had a shot," Stute said. "Why go for $500,000 when you could get a million?"