07/03/2008 11:00PM

Pure Clan taking Grade 1 test

Barbara D. Livingston
Pure Clan will be making her first Grade 1 turf start Saturday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It took fillies of championship caliber to keep Pure Clan out of the winner's circle in three major dirt stakes earlier this year. So far, no one has been able to beat her on turf, making her presence in Saturday's $750,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park all the more intriguing.

Pure Clan will be after the fourth stakes of her career in her first start in a Grade 1 on turf. To win the Oaks, Pure Clan must overcome a rail draw and beat 11 other fillies, six of whom are stakes winners.

"She's run against some tough horses on the dirt," co-owner Lewis Lakin said on Thursday. "I think she's better on turf than on the dirt."

And Pure Clan has been very good on dirt, winning the Grade 3 Pocahontas Stakes and Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs last fall. Earlier this year, she was second in the Grade 3 Honeybee and Grade 2 Fantasy, behind Eight Belles each time, and third to Proud Spell in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

Pure Clan followed that loss with a convincing win in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes on turf at Churchill Downs on June 14, a victory that clinched her participation in the American Oaks.

The American Oaks is the ninth race on an 11-race program that features five stakes, including the $750,000 CashCall Mile. The program begins at noon Pacific, and includes a $500,000-guaranteed pick six pool.

Pure Clan is one of nine fillies in the field who made their last start outside of California. There are four other shippers from around the United States, a group that includes Raw Silk, the winner of the Grade 2 Sands Point Stakes at Belmont Park on May 31.

There are four fillies from Europe, the most prominent of whom is Carribean Sunset, who finished third in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 20. Three of the fillies are locally based runners, and two of them - Bel Air Sizzle and Missit - have won stakes this year.

Europe's best chances are with Carribean Sunset and Satan's Circus.

Before the Coronation Stakes, Carribean Sunset won a Group 3 race in Ireland in May and was fourth, beaten a half-length, in the Irish 1000 Guineas over a mile on May 25. Trained by Dermot Weld, Carribean Sunset is trying 1 1/4 miles for the first time.

The distance will not be an issue for Satan's Circus, who was fifth in the French Oaks on June 8. She won the listed Prix Caravelle over 1 5/16 miles on turf in late April, her first stakes win.

Pure Clan may give the Europeans and the locals all they can handle if she duplicates her win in the Regret Stakes, her turf stakes debut. Ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Bob Holthus, Pure Clan was on the rail to the stretch and pulled clear in the final furlong to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

"She ran the race she had to run," Lakin said. "She has a little better turn of foot on grass than on dirt."

Pure Clan is best from off the pace, a specialty for Leparoux as well.

"It ought to set up well," said Lakin, who co-owns Pure Clan with IEAH Stables of Big Brown fame, and Pegasus Holding Group Stables. "I would have preferred being a little off the rail. I don't think the rail will bother her."

My Baby Baby, a Kentucky shipper trained by Ken McPeek, is likely to set the pace along with Raw Silk. My Baby Baby won an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on turf by 5 3/4 lengths on June 4, and has drawn the outside post in the American Oaks.

Raw Silk led throughout her two wins for Darley Stable and trainer Tom Albertrani. In the Sands Point, Raw Silk was allowed to set a slow pace and pulled away in the final furlong to win by 4 1/4 lengths as an 8-1 outsider in a field of seven.

"She came out of the Sands Point in good shape," Albertrani said. "It depends on what kind of speed there is. After the last race, she kind of moved up a bit."

Bel Air Sizzle will attract support as a filly with Hollywood Park form. Trained by Barry Abrams, Bel Air Sizzle was a fast-closing second after a slow start in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf on June 7

At the start of the Honeymoon, said Abrams, "She leaped up, and when she came down she was two lengths behind the field.

"For the California horses, she's probably the best of them."