02/15/2005 1:00AM

Greater Good: How good will he be?

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Greater Good, John McKee aboard, works at Oaklawn Park where on Saturday the colt will launch his Kentucky Derby quest in Saturday's Southwest Stakes.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Bob Holthus has trained for more than 50 years, and, he said, no horse he has managed accomplished more at 2 than Greater Good. Needless to say, everyone associated with the colt is excited to see where the road will lead at 3.

The journey begins Saturday, when Greater Good makes his 2005 debut in the $100,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

He is one of the "big three" colts using the Arkansas route to the this year, along with Grade 1 winner Afleet Alex and the undefeated Rockport Harbor. But Greater Good will be the only one of the three who will start in the Southwest, which last year was won by Smarty Jones, the eventual winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

As of Tuesday morning, Greater Good had four probable rivals in the one-mile Southwest: Copy My Notes, Major League, Munificence, and Silver Haze.

The race will be Greater Good's first start since Nov. 27, when he closed with a flourish to win to win the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. Just two months earlier, the colt had won the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park.

"He accomplished more at 2 than any other horse I've ever trained," said Holthus. "He won two graded stakes going two turns. The distance factor is not a worry at this time."

Holthus has trained some quality horses over the years, including Proper Reality, who made just one start as a 2-year-old before going on to win the Arkansas Derby in 1988. More recently, Holthus trained Pro Prado, who finished third to Smarty Jones in last year's Arkansas Derby.

Greater Good, a late-running colt, moved to Oaklawn Park soon after the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

"He has developed some over the winter, put on 30, 40 pounds," said Holthus. "We jogged him the month of December, then the first of the year we went back into serious training. He's had six workouts here over the track, and he's done well."

Greater Good has fired bullet workouts three times, his latest a six-furlong move in 1:13.20 on Saturday. It was his final prep for the Southwest, and on Tuesday morning he was playful, happy, and alert as he made his way onto the track for morning exercise.

Greater Good has been with Holthus since June. He races for his breeder, Lewis Lakin. Lakin also co-bred Sort It Out, who upset Galloping Grocer in winning the Whirlaway last weekend at Aqueduct. Becky Thomas is the other breeder of Sort It Out, and she broke Greater Good, said Holthus.

"He's easy to train," said Holthus. "You can do about anything with him; he's not unkind that way. He's not hard on himself, which makes it a lot easier. You can work him a half in 50 [seconds], or you can work him a half in 47."

"He's an all-around athlete," added John McKee, the regular rider on Greater Good. "He carries himself really well, and he's really progressing into a great two-turn horse. He gives every indication he's going to handle the distance. He's got a bright future ahead of him."

Greater Good is by Intidab, a son of Phone Trick who earned a 120 Beyer Speed Figure in 1999 when he won the A Phenomenon Stakes at Saratoga. Intidab also won the Grade 2 True North. Greater Good's dam is Grade 3 winner Gather the Clan, who was bred in Ireland, and whose dam was sprint champion What a Summer.

Greater Good has won 3 of 5 starts and $226,275. He started his career on July 24, finishing fifth in a six-furlong maiden race at Ellis Park. Next, he won a seven-furlong maiden special weight, also at Ellis.

"Actually, he should be undefeated from that point on," said Holthus, noting that Greater Good encountered trouble in the Grade 3 Iroquois two starts later at Churchill and finished third.

"A horse fell in front of him and he jumped over the jockey at the quarter pole and just literally pulled up to a stop and came on and finished third."

Greater Good rallied from seventh to claim the Kentucky Jockey Club, leaving his connections eagerly awaiting his first start at 3.