02/14/2003 12:00AM

Holthus has hot hand for Southwest

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer Bob Holthus, who has won two of the last three runnings of the $75,000 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds, plans to start two promising colts in the one-mile race when it is run at Oaklawn Park on March 1.

The race is the first in a three-stakes series that culminates with the Grade 2, $500,000 Arkansas Derby on April 12.

Holthus plans to start Alke, who most recently finished second to Champali in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3, and Premier Rocket, who won an entry-level allowance race on Wednesday.

Holthus liked the manner in which the quick Premier Rocket, who won his maiden on the front end, achieved his two-length win Wednesday.

"I was real happy with the race," Holthus said. "I told [jockey] Terry [Thompson], that hopefully he'd rate a little, and he rated very kindly."

As for Alke, he was entered in the $50,000 Mountain Valley here last month, but the race did not fill. Since then, the Grand Slam colt has worked sharply. Alke's maiden win came at Keeneland in October. He won by 4 1/2 lengths over Ozzie Cat, recent winner of the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby.

Holthus's recent winners in the Southwest were Afternoon Affair in 2000 and Son of Rocket in 2001. He also won the race in 1988 with Proper Reality, eventual winner of the Arkansas Derby.

Von Hemel vs. Von Hemel

Trainer Don Von Hemel and his son, Donnie Von Hemel, appear to have the leading contenders in the featured ninth race, a one-mile optional claiming race for 3-year-old fillies at one mile. Don Von Hemel has the one to beat in Golden Reputashn, who finished second at this level Feb. 2.

The race was Golden Reputashn's first since Nov. 8, when she finished fifth to eventual Grade 2 winner My Boston Gal in an entry-level allowance race at Churchill Downs. Abel Castellano Jr. will ride.

Donnie Von Hemel will send out the uncoupled duo of Storm Breaking, a filly by Storm Cat who won her debut Feb. 1 and will race on Lasix for the first time, and Juroar, a half-sister to $300,000 Remington Park Derby winner Temperence Time. Juroar will add blinkers after closing for fourth in the same race as Golden Reputashn.

Rare Cure to Essex

Rare Cure, a stakes winner on dirt and turf whose latest win came on the main track at Sam Houston in the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes on Nov. 16, will make his next start in the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex Handicap on Saturday, Feb. 22, according to trainer Joe Petalino.

In one of his final works for the 1 1/16-mile race, Rare Cure worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 on Thursday, the third fastest drill at the distance at Oaklawn that morning.

The local favorite for the Essex is defending champ Crafty Shaw.

Explosive Beauty to Martha Washington

Explosive Beauty, who was a dominant winner of the $50,000 Dixie Belle Stakes on opening day at Oaklawn, will shoot for her second straight stakes score on Monday in the $50,000 Martha Washington, trainer Cole Norman said.

Also expected for the six-furlong race is Adopted Daughter, who will be making her first start since July when she won the $60,000 Prairie Meadows Gold Lassie. Ronny Werner trains Adopted Daughter for owners Sarah and Kenneth Ramsey.

* A catalog of 75 broodmares, yearlings, and horses of racing age will be sold during the annual Arkansas winter mixed sale at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock, Ark., Feb. 24. The sale begins at 11 a.m. Central.

* Following the Monday program, racing at Oaklawn will resume on Thursday.