Holthus, Ritchey, Von Hemel Honored in Arkansas

Trainers Bob Holthus, Don Von Hemel, and Tim Ritchey were honored by the Arkansas Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Feb. 10 during the National HBPA winter convention in Hot Springs, Ark.

Holthus and Von Hemel received lifetime achievement awards, while Ritchey was honored as trainer of Afleet Alex, winner of the 2005 Arkansas Derby (gr. II), Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

Von Hemel, a fixture at Oaklawn Park, was on hand to receive his award and thanked everyone for their support over the years. Holthus, who ventured to Florida to attend the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. February 2-year-old sale, was represented by his wife, Bonnie.

“He’s trying to pick out the next Arkansas Derby winner,” Bonnie Holthus said of her husband, the all-time leading trainer at Oaklawn.

Ritchey, who in recent years has stabled at Oaklawn in the winter and early spring, indicated it’s no surprise Oaklawn has produced the top 3-year-olds Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, and Lawyer Ron in 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively.

“I truly believe Oaklawn has the best route to the Triple Crown,” Ritchey said. “The races are timed perfectly from a horsemen’s point of view.”

The Feb. 10 dinner dance and awards program was held in conjunction with the National HBPA.