11/04/2004 12:00AM

Holthus up for another rare double


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bob Holthus was all grins after sending out back-to-back winners Wednesday at Churchill Downs. Holthus was tickled not just because that's what winning will do to a man, but because even after training racehorses for 52 years, he still sees something new in racing every once in a while.

The Holthus winners were Irena Point, who wore saddlecloth No. 18 in the fifth race, and Big Bad George, who wore No. 15 in the sixth race. Holthus was asked if, in all his years on the racetrack, he had ever saddled Nos. 18 and 15 for consecutive wins.

"Never had a 15 or an 18 win, or at least I can't remember either one," he said. "You never know what's going to happen next in this game."

For Holthus, 70, saddling an 18-15 double was just the first opportunity to do something rare at Churchill this week. Saturday, Holthus will send out major contenders in the twin $100,000 stakes for 2-year-olds: Greater Good in the Iroquois and Kota in the Pocahontas. Since 1982, when the Iroquois was first run, only one trainer has won the Pocahontas and Iroquois in the same year. That was 1983, when Bill Mott won the Iroquois with Taylor's Special and one of two divisions of the Pocahontas with Geevilla.

"It'd be awful nice to be the next guy to do it," said Holthus.

Kota, said Holthus, has been an overachiever in her five career starts. Her last two races have been terrific. She drew off to win the Fisher Debutante at Ellis Park in August, then was third in the Arlington-Washington Lassie behind Culinary and Runway Model, both of whom ran back in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Kota, by Indian Charlie, was purchased in April at Ocala for $47,000. "Usually you don't get this good a horse for that kind of money," said Holthus. "But she's been a nice one - sound, consistent, very competitive."

Besides Kota, the other top fillies in the 36th running of the one-mile Pocahontas include Burnish, who makes her stakes debut for Nick Zito after winning two of three to open her career; Punch Appeal, winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies seven weeks ago for Steve Asmussen; and Im a Dixie Girl, winner of the Bassinet Stakes for Bernie Flint.

The rest of the field is Quiet Optimism, Hot Storm, Ragtime Hope, and Aspen Tree.

Azeri targets Falls City Handicap

Azeri, the 6-year-old mare who became the first female Thoroughbred to surpass the $4 million earnings mark when she finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic last Saturday, returned to training Wednesday at Churchill and is being pointed to the $300,000 Falls City Handicap here Nov. 25.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had mentioned the possibility of having Azeri bred early next year, then bringing her right back to train for another race or two. But owner Michael Paulson said he has already decided that will not be done. Lukas previously has trained in-foal mares, most notably Spain several years ago.

The 1 1/8-mile Falls City may be the penultimate race for Azeri, said Lukas, with a possible career finale coming in California.

Meanwhile, Stellar Jayne, the other standout filly in the Lukas barn, is scheduled to sell this coming week at the Keeneland breeding stock sale. Stellar Jayne finished third in the Breeders' Cup Distaff last Saturday.

Lukas joked at the press breakfast at Lone Star Park the morning after the Breeders' Cup that he would personally lead Stellar Jayne through the sales ring, "then give my business card to whoever signs the sales ticket for her."

Lukas also confirmed that Consolidator, the Breeders' Futurity winner who was fourth in the BC Juvenile, is being given a break and will not run in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on closing day, Nov. 27.

D'Amico out several months

Jockey Tony D'Amico suffered multiple injuries in a spill during the last race Wednesday at Churchill Downs and is expected to be sidelined for several months.

D'Amico suffered a fractured left shoulder blade, four fractured ribs, and a punctured lung. D'Amico was aboard Deep Woods, a 2-year-old maiden filly, when the filly suddenly swerved inward, throwing him. An oncoming rival appeared to strike D'Amico.

This is just the latest in a long string of injuries for D'Amico, who has undergone serious neck and spinal operations during a career dotted with such setbacks. He was said by family members to be resting comfortably in University Hospital on Thursday.

D'Amico, 49, rode his first winner more than 30 years ago at Thistledown in Ohio. He has been a leading rider at Thistledown, Ellis Park, and Turfway Park and has 3,049 career wins.

No other horses or jockeys were seriously hurt in the incident.

Weekend programs add another race

Churchill will expand its Saturday and Sunday cards to 11 races through the end of the meet. The track already is carding 10 races on weekdays.

The move to additional races was spurred by a contractual agreement with the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association that requires a certain number of races to be run at the meet. This is the first time in many years that Churchill has conducted a four-week fall meet consisting mostly of five-day weeks; previous meets have been run over five weeks and/or on a six-day schedule.