08/31/2007 12:00AM

Holding Court bound to get an easier trip

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Anyone who has taken trip notes on recent races run by Holding Court will hold a major advantage in Monday's Rossi Gold Stakes. There are not many local handicappers with insight into the races at Bangalore and Mumbai.

But those are the only two racetracks showing up in the running lines of Holding Court, who starts Monday in the Rossi Gold, a 1 3/16-mile overnight grass stakes. Since Arlington Park for awhile was called Arlington International, and Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois takes pride in the international aspect of his racing program, what better place for this extremely rare bird - an Indian invader - to make his U.S. debut?

The major trip note concerning Holding Court, however, is all the trouble he had just getting here. Holding Court was first mentioned as a candidate for the Arlington Handicap back on July 21, then for the Aug. 11 Arlington Million, but shipping issues got in the way. His trainer, Sadakshara Padmanabhan, said in a story posted on a racing website (indiarace.com) that after leaving home, Holding Court had made one other stop in India, traveled on to Bangkok, followed by a layover in Seoul. Then it was over the Pacific to Alaska, across North America to New York - where Holding Court was kept in a holding pattern for seven days - before finally journeying on to Chicago.

Hopefully, Holding Court will have a better trip Monday. He drew the rail in a seven-horse field, and jockey E.T. Baird - whose agent, Penny Ffitch-Heyes, apparently has a pipeline into the Indian racing scene - landed the mount.

Holding Court, one should add, is a pretty good horse, and ranks as one of the better performers back home. He has won 11 of his 21 starts while finishing worse than third only twice, and has won multiple Group 2 events.

Indian horses have in recent years made appearances in Dubai, to which it is infinitely easier for them to ship, with Mystical, a true Indian star, having good success there this past winter. Holding Court's past performances show four races against Mystical last year, and though Holding Court could never beat Mystical on the square, he got within a length of him in a Group 3 race about 15 months ago.

Lewis Michael to Presque Isle Downs

Lewis Michael went through his paces with a Thursday morning Polytrack workout, but rather than narrowing down the options for Lewis Michael's next start, further possibilities were opened on Friday morning.

Lewis Michael, whose connections are keeping an eye on a possible Dubai World Cup appearance, easily won the Washington Park Handicap in his most recent start, and can perform on all-weather tracks, dirt, and turf. Lewis Michael has trained forwardly since the July 28 Washington Park, and though he was timed in a modest 1:02.40 for his solo five-furlong breeze Thursday, the work pleased trainer Wayne Catalano.

"He's not much of a work horse by himself," Catalano said. "He went perfect. It was all he needs, just a little air in his lungs."

Catalano and racing manager Steve Leving already had mentioned the Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita, the Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont, and the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway as possible spots for Lewis Michael, and on Friday, Catalano added the $175,000 Presque Isle Mile on Sept. 15 at newly opened Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., as a potential destination.

Lassie field taking shape

Meanwhile, Dreaming of Liz - like Lewis Michael a Frank Calabrese homebred - is one of about 10 2-year-old fillies considered possible starters in the Arlington-Washington Lassie on Sept. 8. Dreaming of Liz crushed maiden sprinters on Polytrack in her second start.

Others on the list of possible Lassie runners are an English horse named Eat Pie, Honest to Betsy, La Wildcat, Minewander, Pretty Persuasion, and Yesshe'sarocket. Trainers Bill Mott and Steve Asmussen also are likely to enter one of their nominees in the one-mile Lassie.

Horse shortage

After an excellent first couple months, the pace of entries at Arlington has slowed considerably, and the racing office was working hard Friday to put together an eight-race card for Wednesday. Horses will be in particularly short supply this week, with only one dark day because of Monday's Labor Day card.

"The last two weeks, you started to see foal papers going out of the office," said racing secretary Kevin Greely, who attributed the movement to the opening of Presque Isle Downs, which is offering mammoth purses during a September meet.

Greely, though, conceded that Arlington's horse population started to get stretched as soon as Arlington shifted from a four-day to a five-day racing week in mid-June.

"We went from 40 to 48 races to fill every week," he said. "You have to write your races closer together, plus you end up writing more conditions."

Greely has added some new kinds of races to recent racing programs to try attracting horses. Intricate conditions such as a $25,000 nonwinners-of-three turf-sprint claimer, for example, have made it onto racing programs this week.

o Sunday's feature is an entry-level turf allowance race for fillies and mares. Look for Park at Dark to rebound after a tough-trip fifth in her most recent outing.