11/21/2005 1:00AM

Holthus slump may be at end


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With field size averaging slightly more than 10 horses per race, the fall meet at Churchill Downs has been an outstanding one from a horseplayer's perspective. But for some trainers, trying to get a certain race to "go," or even having a horse draw into one of the many races that have been oversubscribed, has led to some trying circumstances.

"It's the toughest meet I can remember," said Bob Holthus, who has been training since 1952. "I can't get horses in, and when I have, I've had a tough time."

Indeed, with a 1-for-34 record going into the final four-day stretch at Churchill, Holthus obviously has enjoyed more productive meets than this one. But he might be able to get a measure of consolation Wednesday when Victoire Bataille runs in the ninth-race feature, a $60,400 third-level allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

, with Brice Blanc to ride, has been knocking on the door at this level, having finished a close second on two occasions, both at the Churchill spring meet. Speed is her strength, so Victoire Bataille might benefit from the inner rail being stationed well out into the turf course Wednesday, a situation that generally favors horses with tactical ability.

If Victoire Bataille can't hold on, then the feature might go the way of , a Neil Howard-trained filly who posted her last victory on the Churchill turf course in late June. Robby Albarado, who gave her a sensational ride in that narrow win, has the mount back Wednesday. Howard and Albarado teamed Sunday to win the River City Handicap on the Churchill turf with America Alive.

Other logical contenders in the feature include Erhu, , and Constant Touch. Fourteen horses are entered, although only as many as 10 can start.

The secondary feature (race 8) is a $59,200 third-level allowance for 3-year-olds and upward at seven furlongs. Exciting Metro, Stratostar, and Pinpoint look like the logical contenders in a field of nine.

The Wednesday program is the focus of Churchill's handicapping finals. At stake are cash prizes and two seats at the National Handicapping Championships in January in Las Vegas.

The Wednesday card is the last one of the meet without a stakes. The remaining schedule includes the Falls City on Thursday, the Clark on Friday, and the Kentucky Jockey Club and Golden Rod on Saturday. Live action moves Sunday to Turfway Park in Florence.