02/26/2004 1:00AM

Holthus's hand: Prado pair


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The winners of three of the seven stakes held this meet at Oaklawn have come from trainer Bob Holthus's barn, and he has a good chance to add to his record Saturday when he starts the capable entry of Pro Prado and Proper Prado in the $100,000 .

Holthus will have both ends covered in the one-mile race for 3-year-olds. Pro Prado has good speed, while Proper Prado is a strong closer. Both are coming off strong races at Oaklawn.

Pro Prado won the $50,000 Mountain Valley over six furlongs in his last out, which was his third win in four career starts. He will be making his two-turn debut Saturday.

"I believe he'll get two turns," Holthus said. "He's a pretty easy horse to rate, and of course, [his dam] won a couple of stakes going a mile, so I think he'll be able to handle the distance without any trouble."

Pro Prado is by El Prado and out of the Proper Reality mare Mama's Pro, who was a four-time stakes winner of $435,802. Holthus trained her, as well as millionaire Proper Reality, who won the Arkansas Derby in 1988.

"Pro Prado and Proper Reality are quite a bit alike," said Holthus. "Their conformation, their attitude, just everything about them. He kind of reminds you of Proper Reality.

"He's a very athletic horse. He's a natural."

Proper Prado is also by El Prado and out of a Proper Reality mare. His dam, Proper Banner, was a stakes winner of $244,126. Proper Prado was second last out in a $75,000 optional claimer won by the promising Cryptograph.

"He was trying to get through on the inside and had to swing out," Holthus said.

Proper Prado has been competitive against a number of quality horses. He was third to The Cliff's Edge in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, fourth to Pomeroy in the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile, and second to Cactus Ridge in the Ellis Park Juvenile.

Luis Quinonez has the mount on Proper Prado, while John McKee will be aboard Pro Prado. Both horses race for their breeder, Mrs. James Winn.

Gran Prospect adds Lasix for 2004 debut

Gran Prospect, who finished second, three-quarters of a length behind The Cliff's Edge last out in the Kentucky Jockey Club, will make his 3-year-old debut in an allowance Saturday.

Adding Lasix for the race, Gran Prospect will face nine others in the 1 1/16-mile, one-other-than allowance for 3-year-olds. The field will include Mr. Spock, third to Smarty Jones in the Count Fleet. Mr. Spock will add blinkers Saturday.

Gran Prospect, who will be ridden by Craig Perret, should rule as the favorite given his effort in the Kentucky Jockey Club.

"He was really coming at the end," said Pete Vestal, who trains Gran Prospect for Thomas Carey.

Gran Prospect started his career in August, finishing sixth in a maiden race at Saratoga.

"We found out something at Saratoga that did help him," said Vestal. "He wasn't eating all that well. It's an old Irish or European remedy, to put a couple of beers in his feed. Not that two beers is going to put any weight on a horse, but it stimulates his appetite to where he cleans up the feed that we do give him. So, he's been drinking Budweisers ever since."

And performing. In his second career start, Gran Prospect was third in a maiden race at Saratoga. He went on to win his maiden in his two-turn debut at Keeneland, then finished second in an allowance at Churchill before the Kentucky Jockey Club.

Larger purses for this year's 3-year-old stakes

The purse for the Southwest Stakes has been increased from $75,000 to $100,000 in one of a number of changes made to the 3-year-old program this year at Oaklawn. The purse for the Rebel on March 20 has also been increased, from $125,000 to $200,000, and the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby has been boosted in value from $500,000 to $1 million.

Oaklawn will also pay out a $5 million bonus this year if a horse wins the Rebel, Arkansas Derby, and Kentucky Derby.