Favored Pure Clan proved she is one of the best turf fillies in the country by winning Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 American Oaks, a 1 1/4 -mile turf race at Hollywood Park.
In the $750,000 CashCall Mile, a Grade II turf test for fillies and mares also on Saturday’s busy card, Diamond Diva scored a mild upset by nipping Ventura in a photo finish. Favored Lady of Venice, far back entering the stretch, finished third, 2 1/4 lengths behind.
There appears to be little doubt what is next for Pure Clan. The 3-year-old will race Aug. 16 in the Del Mar Oaks, a 1 1/8 -mile turf race at the north San Diego County track -- at least that will be the case if trainer Bob Holthus’ wife Bonnie has anything to say about it.
Bonnie Holthus, 65, a former model who in 1962 was Miss Chevrolet, is from Detroit but has been going to Del Mar since she was a teenager.
“I’d love to go back there,” she said during the post-race celebration in the Hollywood Park Directors’ Room.
Her late father, B.C. Bennett, who died at 93 in 2002, was the longtime traffic manager for General Motors and liked the Del Mar area so much he and Bonnie’s mother retired to Solano Beach.
As added incentive, Bob Holthus, while still in the winner’s circle, got a call on his cellphone from Del Mar racing secretary Tom Robbins, who offered a special welcome.
Hollywood Park racing Martin Panza, aware of Bonnie Holthus’ wishes, set up the call.
“No, I’ve never got a call like that in a winner’s circle,” Holthus said.
Holthus, 74, who lives in Louisville, trains mostly in Kentucky and with his wife owns Kilkerry Farm near Hot Springs, Ark.
He was more noncommittal about future plans for Pure Clan.
“Right now you can’t make plans long term, but hopefully the Del Mar Oaks or the Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland will be next,” he said.
The Queen Elizabeth on Oct. 11 is also a 1 1/8 -mile race on turf.
Pure Clan entered the stretch of the American Oaks in fourth place, found an opening and proved best under some left-handed urging from jockey Julien Leparoux.
Pure Clan, who covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.50, paid $7, $4 and $3.40.
Runner-up Satan’s Circus finished strong and got within three-quarters of a length of the winner. She paid $12.60 and $10.
Clearly Foxy, ridden by Garrett Gomez, finished third and paid $9.80. Irish-bred Caribbean Sunset was fourth.
Sentimental choice My Baby Baby, whom trainer Ken McPeek named in honor of his 7-year-old daughter, eased up in the final furlong and finished last.
Pure Clan’s victory was the first at Hollywood Park for Holthus.
“It took me 56 years to find a race I could win,” he quipped.
Asked if he’d like to come back, he said, “If I could win another Grade I, sure.”
Holthus was understandably in a good mood. But he was a little concerned during the race.
“I was a little worried turning for home if she was going to be able to get through,” he said. “But she made it. Julien did a great job.”
Pure Clan is now unbeaten in four turf races, and has two firsts, one second and two thirds on dirt. She was beaten twice by Eight Belles and finished third in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Kentucky Derby.
The CashCall Mile thriller was best summed up by winner Diamond Diva’s jockey, David Flores, who said: “It was a very close call.”
Flores and trainer James Cassidy had some anxious moments immediately after the race.
“I was just hoping coming back I’d see my number up,” Flores said.
“That other filly [Ventura] went by her in the stretch and my filly looked at her and said, ‘No way.’ ”
Cassidy said he couldn’t tell who won the race.
“I had trouble seeing exactly where the finish line was,” he said.
Said Gomez, Ventura’s jockey: “I opened up three-quarters of a length on that other filly and all of the sudden in the last few yards she went to shutting down on me.
“I only hit her once or twice and that was early on in the stretch. That last little bit I never touched her. Maybe I should have.”