LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Bob Holthus has never had a serious contender for the Kentucky Oaks, but give him a little time, would you? With an unbeaten filly named Pure Clan seeking her fourth straight victory Saturday at Churchill Downs in the $250,000 Golden Rod Stakes, Holthus, at 73, may be a poster boy for the Stars of Tomorrow theme of the closing-day program.
"The last pretty good filly I had was The Happy Hopper about 10 years ago," said Holthus, who took out his first trainer's license in 1952. "But this filly, she's done everything we've asked of her so far. Hopefully, we can continue on, then head down to Oaklawn Park and get her ready to come back here for the Oaks next spring."
Pure Clan, bred and owned by Lewis Lakin, is one of eight 2-year-old fillies in the Grade 2 Golden Rod, which shares the Saturday spotlight with its counterpart for males, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Julien Leparoux, who rode Pure Clan to win her last two races, will be aboard the Pure Prize filly when she breaks from post 1 in the 1 1/16-mile race.
Pure Clan already has developed a highly effective closing kick. She won going away in her August debut at Ellis Park after tracking the pace, then rallied from well behind in capturing an allowance last month at Keeneland, then the Oct. 28 Pocahontas at Churchill.
"She worked good last Saturday, and she galloped awfully nice this week," said Holthus. "We'd love to get out of town with a win, give her a little time off in Hot Springs, then point her to the Fantasy and hopefully the Oaks."
To get through her Golden Rod test, Pure Clan will have to beat a promising Empire Maker filly named Turn Away, who lived up to her advance billing and more when she romped to a nine-length victory as a heavy favorite in her Oct. 28 debut here. Bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Bobby Frankel, Turn Away will break from post 3 when ridden by Rafael Bejarano.
The rest of the Golden Rod field consists of Greenhaven Lake, C J's Leelee, Sunday Holiday, Morakami, Minewander, and French Kiss.
Two overnight stakes on turf
Besides the Golden Rod and KJC, two $65,000 overnight handicaps on turf also are part of the Stars of Tomorrow meet finale.
The Caressing, for fillies at one mile, looks fairly well matched, with most of the 11 entrants having achieved preliminary respectability while never surpassing a 76 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale. Grape Cottage, the stronger half of a Vicki Oliver entry, looks like one of the deserving choices under Bejarano, while Mine or Who's, drawn to the outside for Kent Desormeaux and Bill Mott, is another logical contender.
The Grand Canyon, for colts and geldings at 1 1/16 miles, represents a mix of horses returning from more demanding races - namely, Cherokee Triangle out of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Old Man Buck out of the BC Juvenile, and Why Tonto out of back-to-back turf stakes - versus up-and-coming grass prospects such as Seaspeak, Rich Hero, Role Play, Caberneigh, and Amazing Results. In all, 10 were entered.
* The pick four on races 7-10 paid $60,684.40 for a single $1 ticket here Wednesday.