12/09/2006 1:00AM

Royal Kleven breaks through

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Royal Kleven ($7.40), a runner-up in four stakes earlier this year, scored a victory in the $97,500 California Distaff Turf Championship at Bay Meadows on Saturday.

A 6-year-old mare, Royal Kleven unleashed a strong kick in the stretch, catching pacesetting Loyal Bounty and winning the one-mile turf race for California-breds by three-quarters of a length. Ridden by Chad Schvaneveldt, Royal Kleven ran the mile on a yielding turf course in 1:39.99.

The races's makeup changed sharply when trainer Jerry Hollendorfer scratched his entry - the 3-5 morning-line favorite - of Somethinaboutlaura and Eclipse Winner.

About Royal Kleven, winning trainer Donna Elordi said, "She does all she can do and has run against some excellent horses." Elordi co-owns the mare with Len Shoemaker.

"She's just absolutely amazing," said Elordi. "She does it under adverse circumstances. We have to work her body a lot. She gets daily massages. I told Chad that I thought I had her better than ever. The soft turf bothered me. I don't know why. She runs on everything."

Royal Kleven handled the course well, said Schvaneveldt, although she was rank early. Schvaneveldt saved ground, and Royal Kleven was ready to run when the field of four reached the stretch.

"She ran huge," Schvaneveldt said. "She was a little fresh and pitched her head at me early, but she handled the turf fine."

Royal Kleven earned $55,000 with her eighth victory in 27 starts and now has career earnings of $338,478.

Of his decision to scratch his entry, Hollendorfer cited the high weight of 128 pounds assigned to Somethinaboutlaura, "combined with a turf course that I think will be soft made me feel like it wouldn't be a good idea to run Somethinaboutlaura."

He said that, upon reflection, he didn't think Eclipse Winner belonged in the field.