02/26/2002 1:00AM

Cojet tries two turns and Holthus tries for threepeat


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Cojet, considered one of the best 3-year-old sprinters at Oaklawn, will chart new territory Saturday when he makes his two-turn debut in the $75,000 Southwest, a one-mile race that serves as a stepping-stone to the $500,000 Arkansas Derby on April 13.

has been well prepared for the task at hand by his trainer, Bob Holthus, who has won the past two runnings of the Southwest, taking the 2001 edition with Son of Rocket and the 2000 with Afternoon Affair.

Cojet is a good candidate to make it three straight for Holthus. In his first local start, the multiple stakes-placed colt finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length as the favorite, in the $50,000 Mountain Valley over six furlongs Jan. 26.

He returned two weeks later and romped by 8 1/2 lengths in a conditioned allowance, defeating four stakes winners in the process. For his wire-to-wire win in that six-furlong race, he earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

"He was impressive," said Holthus. "He broke well. In the Mountain Valley, he kind of stumbled a little at the start, and didn't really get to show his true potential, but I think he did the other day."

Holthus believes Cojet, a son of Unbridled's Song, will get the added distance in the Southwest. "I think a mile is in his scope," the trainer said. "He's a big, tall, kind of leggy horse who should be able to get a mile."

He also should handle the two turns, as he has been prepped recently by working into the first turn. "We wanted him to have a little knowledge of what was going to happen Saturday," said Holthus. "He handled it very well. He skipped right around the turn."

Terry Thompson, who rode Son of Rocket last year, has the mount on Cojet in the Southwest.

A field of 13 is probable for the Southwest, and it is unlikely the race will be split in divisions, track officials said Tuesday.

Lopez to ride Caressing

Leading rider James Lopez, who has won three of the seven stakes run at the meet, will ride champion Caressing when she makes her 2002 debut in the $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup on March 16, said trainer David Vance. The 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares is the local prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 6.

, who was named champion 2-year-old filly of 2000 following her win in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, has not raced since November. A winner of $881,410, she breezed six furlongs in 1:14.60 at Oaklawn on Tuesday under Lopez.

"James was the rider that worked her three times before she won the Breeders' Cup, and never had an opportunity to ride her," said Vance. "I feel like he gets along with her well and knows her well."

Red N' Gold eating, running better

Another pointing to the Oaklawn Breeders' Cup is Red N' Gold, who won the $50,000 Pippin Stakes by five lengths on Feb. 16. It was the filly's first stakes win, and a rewarding victory for Holthus, who had hoped Red N' Gold would fulfill the promise she showed last year when she won her maiden by 16 1/4 lengths at Oaklawn.

"She's always had the talent, and occasionally she would show it, but she was a poor doer," said Holthus. "She's gotten over that through the winter, and now eats about as much grain as any horse in the barn. I think that will make her go on and reach whatever level she's going to peak in."

Holthus attributed the filly's renewed appetite to maturity.

* Devout Sinner, who finished fourth as the favorite in the Pippin, could make her next start in either the Oaklawn Breeders' Cup or the $75,000 Irving Distaff on turf at Lone Star Park on April 13, said her owner and trainer, Joan Charlton. Devout Sinner, who is stakes-placed on turf, had won four stakes by a combined 11 lengths leading into the Pippin.

* Secret Spender, third to multiple stakes winner Spanish Glitter in a Jan. 26 allowance, returns Thursday in the ninth race, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares worth $34,000. Others in the race include stakes winners Naturalingredients, Via Gras, and Distinct.