02/28/2007 12:00AM

Holthus barn gets into gear


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer Bob Holthus broke out of a surprising Oaklawn Park slump last week with three winners. He sent out Prayer Service to upset the comebacking Steppenwolfer in an allowance last Friday, and also won maiden races with the 3-year-old colts Next Adventure and Pro Thunder.

Holthus had been 1ofor 37 going into last week's races, a rare slow start for the man who has won a record nine titles here at Oaklawn. He is now 4 for 47 to rank among the top 10 trainers at the track, and his stable earnings of $248,750 rank third among all trainers at Oaklawn.

"The first horses we ran here, they ran well, but we just seemed to finish second," said Holthus. "We've been 13 seconds. It's just one of those things that happens now and then. It looks like we're kind of coming out of it now. Hopefully, we can finish strong."

Holthus has 45 horses on the grounds and will be active in a slew of upcoming stakes. Officer Rocket, a troubled second in the $250,000 Southwest on Feb. 19, is being pointed for the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel here March 17. He will likely work Saturday, said Holthus.

Red Raymond, who encountered a jam-up in the first turn of the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex and finished second, is scheduled to run back in the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap here March 9.

"He's going to work probably Friday, if the track's fast," said Holthus.

Holthus said Tax Refund, third in the $50,000 American Beauty here Jan. 20, is scheduled to run Saturday in the $50,000 Spring Fever, while Level Playingfield, runner-up in the $50,000 King Cotton, is on deck for the $50,000 Hot Springs on March 24.

Next Adventure started Holthus's run last week when he won a six furlong maiden race Feb. 22. He should be at his best sprinting, said Holthus. New Adventure is out of the Grade 3-winning mare Fancy Freda.

Prayer Service paid $17.20 on Feb. 23, when he closed up the rail to win an allowance. A day later, Pro Thunder upset a nice group of maidens by nine lengths in a one-mile race here Feb. 24. He paid $39.40.

"Pro Thunder was kind of a surprise," said Holthus. "He's not a very good work horse. He's bred to be a nice horse. That was just his second start in his life."

Pro Thunder is a half-brother to Pro Prado, a stakes winner for Holthus who has earned $360,009. Pro Thunder is by Thunder Gulch and out of the multiple-stakes-winning mare Mama's Pro, who earned $435,802.

Holthus came into the Oaklawn meet off the strongest year of his career, having won 53 races and a personal-best $3.3 million in stable earnings in 2006.

Sanders sending in Teuflesberg

Teuflesberg, winner of the $250,000 Southwest, will ship into Oaklawn in the next week to continue preparations for the Rebel, his trainer, Jamie Sanders, said Wednesday. He is currently based at Fair Grounds.

Teuflesberg is one of a handful of horses Sanders plans to send to Hot Springs, among them the stakes-placed Pro Pink, who is nominated to the Grade 2 Fantasy here April 6, and the 3-year-olds Fast N Ready and Royal War Academy, who was the runner-up in the Mardi Gras at Fair Grounds.

* With temperatures getting warmer, Oaklawn added silt to its racing surface on Wednesday as part of typical track maintenance, said officials. The addition will create a more lively track, they said.

* Former jockey Nora Cochran and her husband, Jack Palmer, are expecting their first child in September. Palmer is the Oaklawn assistant to trainer Chris Hartman.