Oaklawn News

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Confidence in Miss Mo Kelly Pays Off for Holthus

It’s been all about the numbers in recent days for trainer Paul Holthus of Hot Springs.

Holthus, 55, and wife Nancy, a member of Oaklawn’s media relations department, celebrated their third wedding anniversary Wednesday. And Paul Holthus’ personal red-letter day came three days after a professional one – Miss Mo Kelly’s two-length upset victory in the $100,000 She’s All In Handicap for fillies and mares Sunday at Remington Park.

Miss Mo Kelly ($57.80) represented Holthus’ first stakes victory since Groovin’ Time captured the $75,000 Land of Lincoln April 24, 1993, at the now-defunct Sportsman’s Park in suburban Chicago, and first six-figure stakes victory.

“I knew it had been a long time,” said Holthus, the son of the late Bob Holthus, Oaklawn’s all-time leading trainer. “I knew I had never won a $100,000 race. It was good.”

Miss Mo Kelly, a 4-year-old daughter of Congrats who was making her stakes debut, was eighth after a half-mile in :47.53, but uncorked a powerful five-wide rally turning for home and took command in the final furlong under Belen Quinonez.

Among those finishing behind Miss Mo Kelly were Savings Account, the 5-2 second choice for trainer Tom Proctor, and favored Terra Promessa, the top 3-year-old filly at the 2016 Oaklawn meet after winning the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) and $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Holthus said he had been eying the She’s All In for a “couple of months” and believed the only two horses Miss Mo Kelly couldn’t beat, on paper, were Savings Account and Terra Promessa.

“It’s a big deal to get some black type on those fillies for the owner, down the road,” said Holthus, who trains Miss Mo Kelly for Chicago-based Dundalk 5 LLC. “The plan was if we looked like we could be third … you never know what’s going to happen. And the other thing was, this filly needs pace. She’s got one style. She comes from behind. If there’s no pace in front of her, she doesn’t make up much ground.”

Holthus said Miss Mo Kelly took advantage of a favorable pace setup in the mile and 70-yard She’s All In.

“It looked like that race had a lot speed, and it turned out that way,” Holthus said.

The victory was the third in 18 lifetime starts for Miss Mo Kelly and increased her earnings to $216,841. She was also a March 6 allowance winner at Oaklawn in her third start for Holthus. The filly began her career with trainer Chris Block before Dundalk 5 (Tim and Jane Kindlon) moved the filly to Holthus before the 2016 Oaklawn meeting.

Holthus said friend and former trainer Tony Reinstedler recommended Miss Mo Kelly be sent to Oaklawn because she could tap into its rich purse structure going through her allowance conditions.

“It’s turned out to be a good thing,” Holthus said. “She’s made a $155,000 this year.”

Holthus said Miss Mo Kelly returned Monday to Oaklawn and will probably make her 2017 debut in an early season allowance race.

Holthus’ lengthy stakes drought is misleading since he quit training during the 1995 Oaklawn meeting to become the agent for the now-deceased Garrett Gomez. During the next two decades, Holthus represented several other jockeys, was an executive at H.E. “Tex” Sutton Forwarding Company, the famed equine air transporter headquartered in Lexington, Ky., and worked for Wheeler Printing in Hot Springs.

But after assisting trainer Randy Morse following the 2012 and 2013 Oaklawn meetings, Holthus began planning a training comeback. He saddled his first winner in almost 19 years at the 2014 Oaklawn meeting and finished the year with 23 victories and $436,179 in purse earnings overall.

Holthus won 30 races in 2015 and has 39 victories this year. His purse earnings have continued to grow, too, rising to $796,032 in 2015 and $852,482 this year.

Holthus’ 16-horse stable is mostly claimers, with roughly a third owned in partnership with his wife. According to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, He has 471 winners, including nine stakes, since his first victory in 1980 and purse earnings of $6,196,981. Holthus has 80 career victories at Oaklawn. 

Finish Lines

Oaklawn had 881 horses on the grounds Tuesday. Gate training and paddock schooling began Wednesday. … In addition to Jon Court (4,000 career North American victories), agent “Big Steve” Krajcir of Hot Springs said he will represent Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel (5,159) at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting that begins Jan. 13. Borel was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and 2001. Court was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000. … Seven-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen watched his horses train Thursday morning. Asmussen, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in August, has 498 career victories at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. … Jockey Didiel Osorio, who won four races in his 2016 Oaklawn debut, will return in 2017, according to his agent, Joe Santos. Osorio was getting on horses Tuesday and Wednesday at Oaklawn before he and Santos returned to their December base at Turfway Park. … Horses for Danny Caldwell, Oaklawn’s leading owner the last three years, are now on the grounds. … Trainer Tim Martin said he believes All to Stormy, a 2-year-old half-brother to Arkansas-bred star Weast Hill, will make his career debut early in the Oaklawn meeting. Weast Hill is 5 for 5 at Oaklawn, including three stakes for Brad Cox, Oaklawn’s fourth-leading trainer in 2016. All to Stormy, by Storm and a Half, was also bred in Arkansas.