01/28/2004 1:00AM

Holthus off to quick start


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer Bob Holthus, who swept both stakes opening weekend at Oaklawn Park, will try to extend his streak on Saturday when he sends out Skeet and Salty Genius in the $50,000 King Cotton.

The six-furlong race is the third stakes of the meet at Oaklawn.

Holthus leads the standings at the track after one week of racing, with three wins from nine starters. It is a familiar place for the 69-year-old, who has won more races at Oaklawn than any other trainer. In all, Holthus has racked up nine titles at the track, second only to Henry Forrest, who won 11.

Oaklawn is a big part of the racing year for Holthus, who has 46 horses in training in Hot Springs.

"We come here the first of December," he said. "We plan on it. This is our main goal, and sometimes luck shines on you and you get in the right races, and sometimes it doesn't."

Holthus rolled nothing but sevens last weekend. He won the first race of the meet on Friday with Level Playingfield, and later on the card captured the $50,000 Dixie Belle with Saltwater Runner. The next day, Holthus won his seventh Mountain Valley Stakes when Pro Prado edged 3-5 favorite Wildcat Shoes.

Saltwater Runner, a daughter of Salt Lake, remained undefeated in three starts with her win in the Dixie Belle. For her next race, she will stretch out around two turns for the first time in the $50,000 Martha Washington on Feb. 16. The distance of the race has been increased from six furlongs to one mile this year.

"She's rates pretty kindly, so we hope we get her to stretch out," said Holthus.

Pro Prado will also be making his two-turn debut in his next start, the $100,000 Southwest at a mile on Feb. 28. In the stretch run of the $50,000 Mountain Valley, he showed guts, boldly running through a tight hole along the rail.

"I'll admit, I was a little hesitant when he did it," said Holthus. "But he made it through. He's a pretty game horse. I don't think anything much bothers him, so it was a very good experience for him, really."

Holthus's other weekend winner, Level Playingfield, will probably run through his conditions before stepping into stakes company. He won a one-other-than allowance on Friday.

"Level Playingfield, I think, is going to be a nice 3-year-old," said Holthus. "He's run well. I thought he rated good the other day. It was his first time around two turns, and he drew off. I think he could develop into a real nice horse."

John McKee rode all of Holthus's winners, and has jumped out to the early lead in the standings, with five wins from 22 mounts. Tied for second with four wins each are Tim Doocy and Terry Thompson.

Island Sand to Jones

Island Sand, who won the $84,000 Busanda on Sunday at Aqueduct, is scheduled to arrive at Oaklawn this weekend, said Larry Jones, who will take over the filly's training for her new owner, Jim Osborne, who is from Little Rock, Ark.

Osborne purchased Island Sand privately, before she won the Busanda. She will be pointed for the $75,000 Honeybee on March 6, said Jones. That race serves as a prep for the Grade 2, $200,000 Fantasy, which Jones won last year with Ruby's Reception.

Jones said Ruby's Reception has been retired, and will be bred to Cherokee Run.

Another stakes-winning filly he managed, Don't Countess Out, has also been retired, and will also be bred to Cherokee Run.

Fair Grounds shippers head feature

Cherokee Fighter, Engineered, and My Master, who each last raced at Fair Grounds, appear to be the major players in a six-furlong conditioned allowance for 4-year-olds and up on Friday. The top local starters are Quantis, who earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in an entry-level allowance win in his last start on Aug. 30, and Was My Case.

Cherokee Fighter last raced Dec. 4, finishing second in a six-furlong optional claimer at Fair Grounds. He was beaten a length in that race, which was run in a quick 1:09.40. Willie Martinez has the mount for trainer Jeff Trosclair.

Nebraska trainer Anderson is dead

Leland Anderson, a longtime Nebraska-based trainer, died last Friday after a nine-year battle with emphysema. He was 78.

Anderson is the father of trainer Doug Anderson, and has another son, Tom Anderson, who works for the Donnie Von Hemel stable at Oaklawn Park. Leland Anderson is also survived by his wife, Adeline, and another son, Roger.

Anderson was a native of Hoskins, Neb., and is a World War II veteran. He retired from training in 1995. Among his notable horses were Case On.

* Temperatures in the low 20's forced the cancellation of training on Tuesday, but training resumed at noon on Wednesday with temperatures in the 30's. Tuesday was just the second training cancellation since the track opened Dec. 1.

* There is a $24,057 pick six carryover for Friday.