09/14/2004 11:00PM

Holthus has chance to duplicate his double

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Three weeks ago, trainer Bob Holthus swept Ellis Park's major stakes races for 2-year-olds, taking the $100,000 Ellis Park Juvenile with a colt named Elusive Chris, and the $100,000 Fisher Debutante with the filly Kota.

Sunday, on closing day at Arlington, Holthus has a chance for a second sweep, as Elusive Chris runs in the $200,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity, Kota in the $100,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie. The Futurity is run as a Breeders' Cup-sponsored race this season, and $50,000 of its purse is Breeders' Cup money.

No trainer has won both races since Bert Sonnier did in 1979. And it is not like Holthus figured all along that he'd be here with these two. Kota debuted in an $80,000 maiden claimer and lost, while Elusive Chris needed three tries to win his maiden, finally doing so at Ellis in mid-July.

Holthus conceded that neither horse was an obvious standout, especially Kota, whom he called "a little bit of a surprise." Indeed, Kota was 6-1 when she won the Debutante, Elusive Chris 8-1 in the Juvenile.

"I'd say they're both good athletes," said Holthus, who will ship the pair of 2-year-olds here from his Kentucky base on Friday. "A lot of times, you'll see more from these horses when they start stretching out from five-eighths. These both have the right rating style. They have enough speed, but they won't fight you to run off. They'll rate, and that's an advantage."

Holthus said he doesn't have Breeders' Cup aspirations for either horse, at least at this point.

"There are plenty of races at Keeneland and Churchill," he said. "I'd say we'd stay close to home."

Both the Futurity and the Lassie are looking like close-to-home races: No shippers from beyond Kentucky are expected for either one of them. Heading the Futurity is Rocky River, unbeaten in two starts and an easy winner of Arlington's sprint prep for the Futurity. Other likely starters are Raving Rockey, Straight Line, and Three Hour Nap, with several more possible.

Other fillies mentioned for the Lassie are Culinary, Fi, Mary Alex, and Patience Pays.

Pucker Up draws strong field of 13

There is a Grade 1 winner coming from California, and a Grade 2 winner from New York, but that had little effect on entries for Saturday's Pucker Up Stakes. Thirteen 3-year-old fillies were entered Thursday in the Pucker Up, a Grade 2 at 1 1/8 miles on grass. Spotlight, an easy winner of the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga last out, arrived Tuesday morning from New York, while the Grade 1 winner Ticker Tape was to arrive early Wednesday evening from California.

No one else in the field has accomplished nearly so much, but opportunities to start in age-restricted graded stakes races diminish in fall and winter, and the chance to earn a graded placing for a filly is a chance many will take, even if it means running against heavyweights.

"It looks like a tough son-of-a-gun," said Bobby Springer, who entered Humorous Miss in the Pucker Up. "I wouldn't have shipped 50 miles to run in it, but given that we're already here, we'll try."

Humorous Miss has steadily improved through the summer, and comes into the Pucker Up off consecutive closing victories, the last in the $50,000 Hatoof here. Most years, that would make her a Pucker Up player.

"This time, we'd have to catch lightning in a bottle," Springer said.

* Tamweel worked five furlongs Wednesday in a bullet 59.80 seconds, and her owners - Turf Express Inc. and Darrell and Evelyn Yates - remain focused on a start in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Trainer Wayne Catalano breezed Tamweel himself, and said he had only let her run the last eighth of a mile.

* Catalano said another Turf Express horse, Intelligent Male, has been sold privately for $150,000 and sent to trainer Cole Norman at Louisiana Downs. Intelligent Male won the Claiming Crown Jewel this summer.