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Veteran Trainer Holthus Celebrates 76th Birthday, Hopes Biggest Present Will Arrive Next Week
HOLTHUS TURNS 76 TODAY; BEST PRESENT COMES NEXT WEEK – Bob Holthus has been a trainer for more than 75 percent of his life and today he turns 76, some 58 years after he got his trainer’s license in 1952.
Did he have an idea starting out he would still be training horses all these many years later?
“No,” Holthus said quickly and with a laugh.
Holthus has seen a lot of things in his years on the track, including some he thought he never would see.
“Lights at Churchill Downs. I never thought I would see that,” said Holthus, who saddled his first horse beneath the Twin Spires in 1955. “But we ran at night in the summer at Fairmount Park and Cahokia Downs in the 1950s.”
Holthus, whose top horses have included Proper Reality and Lawyer Ron, sees a different game today than from when he started.
“The purses have increased, but so have the costs,” Holthus said. “Back then, it was more of a family with people looking out for one another and that has changed.”
Although the birthday is today, Holthus is scheduled to receive his best gift next week when stable star Pure Clan returns to the barn.
The two-time Grade I winner, unraced since a runner-up effort in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (GI) last November at Oak Tree at Santa Anita, refused to train on May 6 and was sent to the Rood & Riddle Clinic in Lexington for a thorough examination. She was diagnosed with a bruised left front foot.
“I have been over to see her once a week and she looks good,” Holthus said of Pure Clan, who has been at owner Lewis Lakin’s farm in Versailles. “She will be back here on the first or second (of July).”
Holthus’ long-term goal for Pure Clan is a third run at the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf that will be held at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Pure Clan won the Regret (GIII) as a 3-year-old on the Matt Winn Turf Course in 2008 and made her 2009 debut here with a runner-up effort in the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII).
PADDY O’PRADO MOVING TOWARD KITTEN’S JOY CLASS FOR ROMANS – Donegal Racing’s Paddy O’Prado moved to the head of the 3-year-old turf class last Saturday with his three-length victory in the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup (GII) at Virginia’s Colonial Downs.
The next step he takes will be on a familiar path for trainer Dale Romans, who traveled the same road six years ago with Kitten’s Joy, who went on to be voted an Eclipse Award winner as champion turf horse in 2004.
“He is getting close (to Kitten’s Joy’s level),” said Romans, who has targeted the $600,000 Virginia Derby (GII) on July 17 at Colonial and the $400,000 Secretariat (GI) on Aug. 21 at Arlington as the next stops for Paddy O’Prado.
Kitten’s Joy won both of those races as well as four other stakes during his championship campaign that included the Palm Beach (GIII) at Gulfstream Park, a race Paddy O’Prado won this year to break his maiden.
Paddy O’Prado returned to the turf at Colonial after abandoning the grass for Grade I tries on Polytrack in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland (running second) and on dirt in the Kentucky Derby (third) and Preakness (sixth). Kitten’s Joy never raced on dirt again after his first two starts.
"I had Jerry Bailey come work him on the dirt and he agreed with me that he was not a dirt horse,” Romans said. “There’s a chance Paddy O’Prado could run again on dirt. He can run on anything.”
Kitten’s Joy posted a career record of 9-4-0 in 14 outings for earnings of $2,075,791. His Virginia Derby triumph came in his ninth start and was his fourth stakes victory. Paddy O’Prado got his second stakes victory in the Colonial Turf Cup, which was his ninth start, to improve his record to 2-2-3 in nine races for earnings of $758,497.
Romans, who led all trainers at Churchill Downs with four victories last week including his 500th locally, will try to keep the hot streak going Saturday in the 110th running of the $100,000-added Debutante with debut maiden winner Just Louise.
Owned by Eldon Farm Equine, Just Louise is a half-sister to the Romans-trained Sara Louise. That filly, who did not debut until August of her 2-year-old year, won the 2008 Pocahontas (GIII), defeating Rachel Alexandra who turned the tables on Sara Louise in the Golden Rod (GII). Sara Louise was sold after that race to Dubai-based racing powerhouse Godolphin.
“They are totally different fillies,” Romans said. “But, they both have a lot of talent.”
LEPAROUX BACK IN THE SADDLE, RETURNS TO THE RACES JULY 1 – Jockey Julien Leparoux returned to the saddle Wednesday morning galloping horses and will resume riding races next Thursday, July 1.
Leparoux, who has won or shared six riding titles at Churchill Downs, was injured May 14 during the running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (GII) at Pimlico. Leparoux suffered a compression fracture in his vertebrae after being unseated from Diva Delite when she clipped heels.
Leparoux rode the next day on the Preakness Day card, winning two races, and won two races the following day at Churchill Downs. The injury was discovered during an MRI on May 18.
"I didn’t think I was that badly hurt,” Leparoux said of the injury. “But that is all behind me now, in the past.”
During the five weeks off, Leparoux spent a week and a half in his native France and another week in the Bahamas.
Leparoux’s agent, Steve Bass, said the 26-year-old jockey would ride the final four days of the meet and stay in Kentucky for a couple of weeks after the meet before going to Saratoga about a week before that meet opens July 23.
BARN TALK – Jockey Greta Kuntzweiler, who last rode here during the Fall 2005 meet, will resume her riding career Thursday afternoon with three mounts on the nine-race card. Kuntzweiler, 34, first rode at Churchill Downs during the Spring 1999 meet and has ridden 65 winners here. Kuntzweiler won here first race here in the 1999 Fall Meet and her most recent win came during the 2004 Spring Meet. Her best meet here was in the spring of 2000 when she rode 19 winners. Steve Krajcir will handle Kuntzweiler’s book here and this summer at Ellis Park. …
With eight racing programs remaining in the meet, trainer Tom Amoss continues to put up gaudy numbers. Amoss is tied for second in the trainer standings with Dale Romans with 15 victories, six fewer than Steve Asmussen. However, Amoss has started only 43 horses and is winning at a 35 percent clip, the only conditioner with more than 10 victories winning at better than 30 percent. “The meet has been very good,” Amoss said. “I don’t run enough to win a (training) title unless we win at a silly percentage.” Forty percent qualifies as silly, which Amoss did in the 2008 Spring Meet when he won his only outright title here with 35 winners from 87 starters. Amoss also shared the Spring title with Romans in 2002.