Come to Papa - By Dan Liebman

(Originally published in the February 20, 2010 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)      

Standard football coach-speak on national signing day is always to say recruiting starts at home. “We need to get the best players from within our own state,” is a statement you hear over and over.

In Thoroughbred breeding it is often impossible for a state outside Kentucky to attract the best runners and/or best bred horses from within its borders. Kentucky is the center of the universe for breeding in North America, but it is far from the only planet within that universe.

A year ago, in his first stakes start, Papa Clem ran second to Pioneerof the Nile in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) and his nine subsequent starts came in stakes, all but one graded. Though bred in Kentucky, Papa Clem is a Californian: owned and bred by a Californian; trained by a Californian; and based in Southern California, where he made seven of his 13 starts. Papa Clem went on to win the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and, in his only start this year, captured the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II).

Papa Clem ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) which, for California breeders, actually turned out to be a good thing. Had he won the classic, odds are his owner, Bo Hirsch, would have received higher offers to stand him at stud in Kentucky and perhaps been lured to the Bluegrass State.

Instead, a group of Calfiornia breeders—Pete Parrella, Tom Bachman, Madeline Auerbach, Don Valpredo, and Brian Boudreau—approached Hirsch, and it was announced in late January Papa Clem would stand at Parrella’s Legacy Ranch near Clements, Calif.

California’s breeding industry has suffered in recent years, with the closure of farms and a decline in stallions and broodmares. At the beginning of the 1990s, more than 7,000 mares a year were being bred in California, a number that dropped to about 5,600 in 2000 and in the last year for which The Jockey Club has complete numbers—2008—4,075. The number of stallions standing in California was 430 in 2000 and 278 in 2008.

To keep with the coaching analogy, California has been able to recruit a top prospect. Papa Clem is a son of leading sire Smart Strike, a son of Mr. Prospector, and is best known as the sire of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. Papa Clem’s dam is a grade I California stakes winner, Miss Houdini, by Belong to Me, and his second dam is a California grade I stakes winner, Magical Maiden, by Lord Avie.

California breeders should be enthusiastic about retaining Papa Clem, just as they have been about the success of the state’s current leading sire, Unusual Heat. It has been a while since a Golden State horse stood for $25,000 like Unusual Heat, who through Dec. 31, 2009 is the only California sire to have a lifetime Average Earnings Index of more than 2.00 (2.17).

Unusual Heat, who stands at Old English Rancho, ranked as the 29th-leading sire on the general sire list nationally last year, having occupied the 20th spot the previous year. California sire Swiss Yodeler ranked 19th in 2006, and such sires as In Excess and Bertrando have also appeared on the list in recent years.

These names, and others, remind us of California sires such as Fleet Nasrullah, Gummo, Reflected Glory, Flying Paster, Pirate’s Bounty, and Cee’s Tizzy.

Which brings us to this year’s running of the Robert Lewis Feb. 13 at Santa Anita, won by California-bred Caracortado. Though Caracortado, by Cat Dreams, will not be able to become a California sire because he is a gelding, he is the latest testament to the state’s breeding program, a grade II winner that is unbeaten in five starts.

In a state with fewer mares, fewer stallions, fewer farms, and fewer breeders, Caracortado, Papa Clem, and Unusual Heat are good news for Californians.


Leave a Comment:


Oh! Thank you for writing something positive about California and its horses. Bashing of our state as been in vogue lately and it is refreshing to hear otherwise. We desperately need the good news you write about. It's tough out here for everybody involved with horseracing be it as breeders, owners, trainers, racetracks or fans. I'm delighted that Papa Clem will stand here and wish him great success in his new career. Viva California's Thoroughbreds!

17 Feb 2010 6:02 PM

You should try being in New Hampshire...California has nothing to whine about.

17 Feb 2010 6:33 PM

I would say given the races of Dancing in Silks and California Flag that Cal-Breds put on quite a demonstration in their own back yard.  So much for the synthetic to dirt flop with Papa Clem taking a major Derby prep on dirt.  

17 Feb 2010 7:11 PM

Now there's a horse I wish had come to Pennsylvania. Bravo to the people who put it together and for Mr. Hirsch for having faith.

17 Feb 2010 9:14 PM

Glad to see California land a local star with plenty of drawing power. I sent a mare several years ago to Cali when Free House retired and this is the type stallion that can draw out of state mares as well. Good luck to the connections on standing up for a state program that could use some good news.

17 Feb 2010 10:06 PM

I am just down right happy for Papa. He deserves this and more. Talk about a horse always trying his best. And you just have to love his connections. I am sure he will give California breeding/racing the boost it has needed so badly.

17 Feb 2010 11:42 PM
Shelby's Best Pal

I visited the wonderful Bertrando at River Edge Farm in Buellton over Christmas.  He still has "the look" and the farm is so beautiful.  It was so good to see him doing well.

18 Feb 2010 7:53 AM


I can't understand the mentality (or lack of) of the people led by the one called draynay who take such pleasure bashing California based horses and California Racing in general. Those are not true fans of the sport no matter what they say.

Nice article on a very good horse. Papa Clem will be heard from in the years to come especially but (not limited to) in the CA Bred Stakes.  

18 Feb 2010 3:29 PM


I don't either...but what you gonna do?... I try to ignore him and others like him (there aren't too many of them, thank goodness!), I don't always succeed. There's great racing in so many venues, why not enjoy and appreciate all of them?

18 Feb 2010 4:34 PM

Va. needs a few more top tier stallons too...& good luck to PAPA...

18 Feb 2010 5:18 PM
Fran Loszynski

I liked Papa Clem, he is a spunky little horse in fact before I realized Mine That Bird was from Birdstone, I bet on Papa Clem for the Derby. If you wanted a spunky Kentuckian horse, Papa Clem was the one. I think we should watch for his foals.

19 Feb 2010 10:18 AM
Gayle Van Leer

Thanks everyone for all the wonderful comments. As syndicate manager I could not be more excited with the great response and support we are getting from breeders in the state. He is just the horse we have been waiting for!

21 Feb 2010 9:02 AM
Barbara Kerr

What a great post about the Cal-breds!  Clemet Hirsch was part of a dynasty of racing in SoCal.  The Oak Tree meet was created by him.  From what I remember, KY bloodlines have been brought into CA for many years, long live California racing.  All the best to you, Papa Clem as a sire!

21 Feb 2010 6:48 PM

Great article on Papa Clem. He was one of my favorites last season. Always tried his best everytime. I think he'll produce some very nice horses in the future. Let's not forget Tiznow. He was a Cal-Bred, although he is now standing in Kentucky. It would be nice to see him return to the Golden State.  

22 Feb 2010 3:07 PM

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