02/27/2008 1:00AM

Pure Clan works toward Honeybee

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The undefeated Pure Clan continues to impress in her works as she nears her season debut, which is set for March 16 in the Grade 3, $100,000 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn. Her latest drill came at about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, when she breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 under regular exercise rider Steve Schmelzel.

"I thought she did it easy," said Bob Holthus, who trains Pure Clan.

"Everything is going along about as good as we can ask."

Pure Clan is the most credentialed 3-year-old at Oaklawn, and her work Wednesday was the second fastest of 25 at the distance. The Honeybee will be her first start since winning the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24. The race also will be her first for new majority owner International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Inc. Her breeder, Lewis Lakin, is still a part-owner.

Holthus said plans are to put two six-furlong works into Pure Clan prior to the Honeybee, the first of which is scheduled for Tuesday.

Others pointing for the race include Eight Belles, who was a 13 1/2-length winner of the $50,000 Martha Washington here Feb. 17. The Larry Jones-trained filly earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

Euphony, a winner of both of her starts, is being considered for the Honeybee, trainer Donnie Von Hemel said. Euphony won her debut Jan. 21, then came back and won a first-level allowance Feb. 16, with both races at Oaklawn. She is by Forest Wildcat and out of the multiple-stakes-winning mare Strike It Up.

The Honeybee is a stepping-stone to the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy here April 6.

Dominguez to ride Eight Belles

Jockey Ramon Dominguez will team with Eight Belles this spring, Jones said. Their first pairing will come in the Honeybee, with the long-term goal being the Kentucky Oaks.

"He'll be on for the Honeybee," Jones said of Dominguez, the nation's second-leading rider in earnings and third-leading rider in wins. "If all continues well, we do have an agreement to go all the way through the Oaks."

The Fantasy will be Eight Belles's final stepping-stone to the Oaks.

"We know more than likely she's going to wind up on the New York circuit as soon as this is over," Jones said of the run-up to the Oaks, "and Ramon is a logical choice. He's the leading rider in New York right now, and he's ridden for us in the past on several horses."

Eight Belles was a 15-length allowance winner at Fair Grounds in February, and duplicated the effort in the Martha Washington. The Midwest-based Terry Thompson rode her for the first time in that stakes, and prior to that she had been ridden by both Gabriel Saez, the regular rider on Oaks candidate Proud Spell, and Mario Pino.

The Martha Washington was one of two 3-year-old stakes Jones won in a week's time at Oaklawn. He also captured the $50,000 Mountain Valley at six furlongs Feb. 23 with Ferragamo, who earned a career-best Beyer of 96.

"We've got lots of options," Jones said of stakes possibilities for Ferragamo.

They include the $50,000 Hansel at six furlongs at Turfway on March 22; the Grade 3, $150,000 Bay Shore at seven furlongs at Aqueduct on April 5; the $100,000 Lafayette at seven furlongs at Keeneland on April 6; and the $100,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup at a mile at Oaklawn on April 12.

Semaphore Man targets Kenner

Semaphore Man, who won the $50,000 King Cotton at Oaklawn with a Beyer of 107, will run next in the $200,000 Kenner Breeders' Cup at Fair Grounds on March 8, trainer Kelly Von Hemel said.

Junior College, who finished second in the King Cotton, will make his next start in either the Kenner or the $50,000 Hot Springs at Oaklawn on March 22, trainer Tony Reinstedler said.

Both horses are top candidates for the Gradeo3, $150,000 Count Fleet here April 11.

Miss Macy Sue nears return to work tab

Miss Macy Sue, who has been freshened since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, is settled in at Oaklawn and will probably have her first work back this weekend, Von Hemel said.

"She looks great," he said. "She's filled out, and we're very happy with the way she's come in."

Miss Macy Sue won last year's inaugural $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters.

Rodeo's Castle returns in optional claimer

Rodeo's Castle, a multiple stakes winner of $390,410 who has not raced since finishing sixth in last year's Count Fleet, makes his comeback in Friday's featured ninth race. The $40,000 optional claimer will be run at 5 1/2 furlongs, and top contenders include Gone Missing, who was second at this level last time, and U D Ghetto, who last year won the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile.

* Hall of Fame rider Earlie Fires has been named to ride probable favorite Midnight Illusion in the second race Friday. The mount is the first at the meet for Fires, who had been riding at Gulfstream.