Golden Rod winner Pure Clan makes her 3-year-old debut in the Honeybee Stakes on March 16.

Golden Rod winner Pure Clan makes her 3-year-old debut in the Honeybee Stakes on March 16.

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer

Pure Clan Faces Eight Belles in Honeybee

Pure Clan makes her 3-year-old debut March 16 at Oaklawn Park.

Undefeated Lewis Lakin homebred Pure Clan makes her 3-year-old debut March 16 in the $100,000 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III), and will have to hold off five rivals, including Eight Belles, who won her stakes debut in impressive fashion last month.

Pure Clan (7-1) and Eight Belles (8-1) were two of the top choices after the second leg of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) Future Wager. They will settle the issue in the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-old fillies on the Oaklawn Park dirt.

Pure Clan won all four of her juvenile starts for legendary Oaklawn trainer Bob Holthus. The chestnut daughter of Pure Prize is the only Honeybee entrant with a graded stakes win, and she has a pair of them.

Both of the blacktype scores came at Churchill Downs. She took the Oct. 28 Pocahontas Stakes (gr. III) by 1 ¼ lengths, then came back less than a month later to triumph in the one-mile Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II), rallying down the stretch to win by two lengths. Both of the stakes wins came under Julien Leparoux, who will get the return call on Sunday.

Out of the General Assembly mare Gather The Clan, Pure Clan has bankrolled $316,209. She will break from post four. Holthus is hoping the nearly four-month layoff won’t affect his talented filly.

“She’s training well and has never missed a workout,” Holthus said. “We gave her the month of December off to freshen and she has matured, filled out, and stayed happy since then. Ideally, I would have liked to have gotten her into a race before this, but we made the decision before we ever left Churchill that we would try (the Honeybee). I think she’s fit enough. (The layoff) shouldn’t be an issue.”

Pure Clan has worked twice this month, including a five-furlong breeze March 10 in 1:01.80.

Eight Belles does not have the back class of Pure Clan at this point, but it is difficult to ignore her dominance since beginning her 3-year-old campaign. The gray/roan daughter of Unbridled's Songwon only one of five starts as a juvenile, but was brilliant in her sophomore debut, winning by 15 lengths in an allowance test Jan. 21 at Fair Grounds.

After shipping to Oaklawn for trainer Larry Jones in February, Eight Belles made her stakes debut in the one-mile Martha Washington. And what a performance it was. Under Terry Thompson, she stayed close to the pace, took over around the turn, and burst to the wire 13 ½ lengths the best.

A $375,000 purchase at the Keeneland September yearling sale, Eight Belles is owned by Fox Hill Farms. Bred in Kentucky by Robert Clay and Serengeti Stable, she is out of the Dixieland Band mare Away. On March 10 Eight Belles breezed five furlongs in :59.80, the best work of 28 horses that day.

“We didn’t expect to catch a filly like (Eight Belles) in our first back, but that’s the way it goes,” Holthus said. “She’s had the benefit of a couple races, but we’ll just have to see if he can't run her down.”

Ramon Dominguez gets the call on Eight Belles for the first time. They will break from the outside post.

Kadira, Cozy Mesa, Vancy Pants and Salomea are the other four challengers. Kadira has won two stakes in a row, including an eight-length score in the Dec. 22 Gowell at Turfway Park. The Kafwain filly made her 3-year-old debut in the six-furlong Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 26 at Oaklawn and missed by three-quarters of a length only to be placed first through disqualification. She was more than eight lengths behind Pure Clan in the Pocahontas.

$100,000 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 5:11 p.m.), Three-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles
1. Kadira (KY), 117, Larry Melancon
2. Cozy Mesa (KY), 119, Christopher A. Emigh
3. Vancy Pants (KY), 117, Terry J. Thompson
4. Pure Clan (KY), 119, Julien R. Leparoux
5. Salomea (ON), 117, Calvin H. Borel
6. Eight Belles (KY), 119, Ramon A. Dominguez