05/09/2002 12:00AM

Cojet returns to what he does best


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It usually doesn't take Bob Holthus very long to figure things out, especially when it comes to his own horses.

In March at Oaklawn Park, Holthus, who next year will celebrate 50 years as a Thoroughbred trainer, tried to get a 3-year-old named Cojet to win at one mile. Cojet failed, but Holthus tried him at a mile again the following month.

"He went a half-mile in [44.60]" said Holthus, not needing to explain that Cojet faded badly soon thereafter. "I don't think we're going to try that anymore."

Having settled on Cojet becoming strictly a sprinter, Holthus may have found precisely the kind of spot the gray colt can fully appreciate: the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes, a six-furlong race that will be run for the first time Saturday at Churchill Downs.

"When this colt runs, he really runs," said Holthus of Cojet. "Hopefully this will be the kind of race he can show what he can do."

Cojet, owned by Dan Jones, drew post 7 in a field of eight 3-year-olds entered in the Matt Winn, a race that probably will have Saturday Hero as the favorite for trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Pat Day. Saturday Hero has won twice in four career starts and most recently finished third in the March 23 San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita.

Cojet, by Unbridled's Song, is the first foal out of the young dam Airhart, whom Holthus trained into a stakes winner for Jones on the Kentucky circuit in the mid-1990's.

"She was really fast," said Holthus. "She passed that quality on to this colt."

The rest of the field is Richest Half, Major Focus, Laffit, Day Trader, Still Be Smokin', and Medlin Road.

Four starters come off allowance wins: Richest Half at Oaklawn, Day Trader and Still Be Smokin' at Keeneland, and Medlin Road at Sportsman's Park. Still Be Smokin', trained by veteran Pete Salmen Jr., was particularly impressive in his April 13 win.

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