Bob Holthus dies at 77

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Bob Holthus, whose training career spanned nearly 60 years and made him a revered figure among his Midwestern peers, died early Tuesday at his home in Louisville. He was 77.

Holthus was a dominant figure at Midwest tracks in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, running one of the largest and most successful stables in the country. He suffered for years from heart problems and other ailments but had remained active while substantially reducing the numbers in his stable in recent years.

Asked innumerable times when he began his career, Holthus would say, "In 1952, on my 18th birthday," in his native Nebraska. He was born June 24, 1934, in Table Rock, Neb., the son and grandson of horse trainers.

Holthus's best known runners were Arkansas Derby winners Lawyer Ron (2006) and Proper Reality (1988). As a 3 year old for Holthus, Lawyer Ron also won the Rebel and Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn and the Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Other top horses trainer by Holthus include Grade 1 winner Pure Clan, Mama's Pro, Dave's Friend, and Greater Good.

Holthus is survived by his wife, Bonnie, who accompanied him to the races with regularity; his sons, Paul, a longtime former assistant who also trained a public stable before working in other capacities in the racing industry, and David; and his daughter, Debbie, also a longtime stable assistant who worked in recent years overseeing the family farm in Arkansas.

Bonnie Holthus said her husband was getting ready for work early Tuesday when he suffered a heart attack. Emergency personnel were on the scene within minutes, but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Funeral arrangements are pending.