05/31/2005 11:00PM

Holthus near release from hospital stay

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Bob Holthus was scheduled for release from a Louisville hospital as early as Friday after his health underwent marked improvement within the last week or so.

Holthus, who has been in the University of Louisville Hospital since May 23, had been suffering from complications involving the recent replacement of a defibrillator and insertion of a new pacemaker.

Debbie Holthus, the trainer's daughter and assistant, said her father had been feeling poorly for months but wanted to wait until after the Kentucky Derby to submit to any medical procedures that might have been required. Greater Good, trained by Holthus, ran 13th in the May 7 Derby.

"The doctors think they've got everything under control now," she said. "His body had taken on a lot of excess fluid, but they've switched his medicines, and everything is starting to get back to normal. He's lost 40 pounds in the last few weeks, almost all of it the extra fluid."

Debbie Holthus said her father could be back to work "any day," assuming he continues to improve.

Holthus, 72, took out his first trainer's license nearly 52 years ago in his native Nebraska.

Not many for Early Times Mint Julep

A small field of fillies and mares has taken shape for the lone stakes here this weekend, the $100,000 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap on Saturday.

Angela's Love, Delta Princess, Shaconage, and Sister Swank are among the definite starters for the Grade 3 Mint Julep, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Delta Princess is one of three horses nominated to the race by trainer Bill Mott, but Mott's assistant Kenny McCarthy said Wednesday that Delta Princess would be the stable's lone starter.

Entries for the Mint Julep were to be drawn Thursday.

No Belmont for Don't Get Mad

Don't Get Mad definitely has been eliminated from consideration for the June 11 Belmont Stakes and will point instead to the $200,000 Northern Dancer at Churchill a week later, trainer Ron Ellis said Wednesday.

"We've just missed too much serious training with him to think about a tough race like the Belmont," said Ellis.

Don't Get Mad is one of about 100 horses whose training schedules have been compromised since being confined under quarantine as of May 18. The quarantine restrictions are expected to be lifted this weekend.

Don't Get Mad, whose only loss in four races at Churchill was his fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, figures as a heavy favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Northern Dancer on the Stephen Foster undercard. Ellis said the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park would follow.

Firecracker next for Cool Conductor

Cool Conductor, upset winner of the May 21 Dixie Handicap at Pimlico over heavily favored Artie Schiller, will make his next start in the one-mile Firecracker Handicap at Churchill, said trainer Ralph Nicks.

Nicks said he hoped the Aug. 13 Arlington Million would follow. The Dixie was 1 1/8 miles, and the Million is 1 1/4 miles.