05/29/2009 12:00AM

Holthus has the youth here

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - For most of his nearly 57 years as a licensed trainer, Bob Holthus has been known for a quiet dignity and an uncanny ability to get a lot of horses to run fast. Even into his later years, Holthus has operated a fairly sizable stable that has produced such graded winners as Pure Clan, but with his 75th birthday set for June 25, he says he is ready to slow down.

Into weekend action at Churchill Downs, Holthus had sent out just 61 starters in 2009, a far cry from the years when he would be represented by hundreds of runners, including 1977, when he won 94 races from a career-high 697 starters.

It was less than three years ago, in 2006, that Holthus set a personal record for annual stable earnings with more than $3.3 million, but over the last year or so, his rosters of clients and horses have begun to diminish.

"It goes with old age," he said with typical self-deprecation and a chuckle. "I'm getting old and cutting back."

In one way, however, Holthus will be the young'n of the bunch when the eighth-race feature, a $55,300 turf sprint, is run Sunday at Churchill. He will send out the lone 3-year-old in the field, Turfiste, a speedy colt whose forays into the stakes ranks within his own age group would suggest he will be competitive in allowance company, even when facing older horses for the first time.

Turfiste will be ridden by Jamie Theriot when breaking from post 4 in the five-furlong race.

"He's proved to be a pretty fast horse, although I don't know how he'll stack up against the older horses," said Holthus. "He can get a mile with the right horses, but he's probably better off going shorter. We thought we'd give this a try."

Turfiste is a full brother to Beau Dare, a 6-year-old mare who Holthus trained earlier in her career, and who has earned $425,745 by specializing in turf sprints.

"She did real well in these kinds of races," said Holthus.

Seven older horses will line up Sunday against Turfiste, with the main threats being the two outside runners: E Z Warrior, working steadily after a lengthy layoff, and Lord Robyn, a recent turf-sprint winner in $50,000-claiming company.

After Sunday, Churchill goes dark for three days before live action resumes Thursday.