02/22/2005 12:00AM

Greater Good gets jump start


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Greater Good has struck first. One of the "big three" colts based at Oaklawn Park this spring, he lived up to his short odds by winning Saturday's $100,000 Southwest Stakes, the first of three two-turn stakes for 3-year-olds at Oaklawn Park.

Greater Good, who is trained by Bob Holthus, will now advance to the Grade 3, $250,000 Rebel on March 19, a race that will serve as the seasonal debut for both Afleet Alex and Rockport Harbor, who are also based at Oaklawn.

Greater Good won the Southwest by three-quarters of a length after a slow start, closing from last to first in the one-mile race. As all mile races do at Oaklawn, the Southwest had a short stretch run and ended at the sixteenth pole.

"I thought he ran very good, very good," said John Servis, who trains Rockport Harbor and who won the Southwest last year with Smarty Jones. "It puts Bob in a real good position. He's got that race under his belt, and he got a win in doing it. A lot of guys will envy [Holthus] for being in the position he's in."

Tim Ritchey, who trains Grade 1 winner Afleet Alex, shared similar sentiments about Greater Good.

"He ran a very courageous race because he didn't break the sharpest," said Ritchey. "He was back a lot further than normally - he's back anyhow - and he had to circle horses."

The slow break cost the colt about three or four lengths, estimated his jockey, John McKee.

"At the break I thought it was all over, with as much as he got left," said Holthus. "But once he kind of got to running, I thought it was going to be close. When he turned for home and got into gear, why, he got to running pretty fast."

Holthus said he liked the stretch run of Greater Good "and the fact that he was pricking his ears at the wire."

Holthus said the colt "came back as good as he went in," to the Southwest. Greater Good was tentatively scheduled to return to the track on Wednesday.

Holthus said he would work Greater Good twice before the Rebel. "In about 10 days he'll have an easy five-eighths, and about a week out, we'll put a pretty good work into him," he said.

Greater Good races for his breeder, Lewis Lakin.

Rematch for Pippin one-two

Casual Attitude and Island Sand, who finished one-two in the $50,000 Pippin Stakes on Sunday, are both being pointed for the Grade 3, $175,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup on March 12.

Island Sand, who won the Grade 1 Acorn last year, was the favorite in the Pippin. She was making her first start since Nov. 7, and had a demanding trip between horses in the 1 1/16-mile race.

"She ran hard the whole time," said Cindy Jones, assistant to her husband, trainer Larry Jones. "She didn't get a break."

The Pippin was also the first start without blinkers for Island Sand. She handled the equipment change well, said Cindy Jones.

Casual Attitude has now won three straight races. She came out of the Pippin in good order, said her trainer, Steve Hobby.

The return of 'Smarty'

Like Smarty Jones, Smarty Me is a 4-year-old by Elusive Quality. But instead of launching a breeding career this year, Smarty Me will be launching a comeback in the eighth race Thursday at Oaklawn.

A six-furlong entry-level allowance, the race is for fillies and mares and has a purse of $32,500.

Smarty Me shows consecutive bullet workouts in preparation for her first start since Sept. 12, when she finished eighth in an allowance at Arlington Park. Given her sharp workouts, she could be sitting on a race similar to her debut effort, when she won her maiden over six furlongs in a razor-sharp 1:09.60.

Terry Thompson was aboard for the maiden victory and will team with Smarty Me for the first time since that race Thursday. Smarty Me races for Robert McKee and is trained by Don Von Hemel.

Million-dollar day for machines

Instant Racing, a parimutuel game that plays like a slot machine, had wagers of $1,012,483 on Monday, the first time Instant Racing has reached a single-day handle of $1 million or more.

The game was introduced in 2000 and this year will provide for $1.5 million in taxes to the state of Arkansas, according to figures Oaklawn officials stated during an Arkansas Racing Commission meeting Saturday.

* Handle on live racing Monday was strong, too, with the ontrack crowd of 33,310 betting $2,055,899 on the 11-race program. Another $3,436,938 was bet offtrack, for a total handle of $5,492,837 on Oaklawn's races Monday.

* There is a pick six carryover of $24,240 on Thursday.