05/27/2005 12:00AM

Kitten's Joy gets going on repaired knee


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The champ is back.

Kitten's Joy, the 2004 Eclipse Award winner for top turf horse, had his first breeze over the Churchill Downs turf course since recovering from minor knee surgery when he went an easy half-mile in 51 seconds on Thursday.

"It was just to get him going, something easy to let him know we're ready to start back up before too long," said trainer Dale Romans. "I am very pleased with how he has come back."

Shortly after finishing second as the odds-on favorite in the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup Turf, Kitten's Joy was found to have a small knee chip. Following arthroscopic surgery and a period of recuperation, Kitten's Joy returned to light training at Palm Meadows in south Florida and actually had one breeze over the turf course there, going a half-mile on March 11.

But like all the Romans horses in south Florida, Kitten's Joy was detained in quarantine because of a strangles outbreak, and he missed training time that would have had him closer to his 4-year-old debut.

"Our first goal all along has been to make the [Aug. 14] Arlington Million, and that's still well within our reach," said Romans. "But it looks like we might have to go into it with just one prep race, and that would be the Firecracker."

The Firecracker Handicap, a one-mile turf race, is to be run at Churchill Downs on July 4.

Romans said a return to the BC Turf, which will be run Oct. 29 at Belmont Park, is the ultimate goal.

"What we do after the Million, I don't want to jump too far ahead," he said.

Kitten's Joy, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, won 6 of 8 turf starts last year and was an overwhelming choice among Eclipse voters in the turf category.

Holthus hospitalized

Trainer Bob Holthus is back in the hospital after suffering complications from a new pacemaker. Holthus's son, Paul, said Friday that his father is "stabilized and conscious, what they would probably call 'fair condition.' "

Bob Holthus was admitted to the University of Louisville hospital on Monday. He has a history of heart problems and had an old defibrillator replaced and a pacemaker installed just a few days after sending out Greater Good to a 13th-place finish in the May 7 Kentucky Derby.

Holthus, 72, went home after the initial procedure but was readmitted on Monday because of heart rhythm problems.

Paul Holthus said his father has excessive fluid around the heart cavity and throughout his body, but added on Friday: "He has had a good day. We're hopeful the situation can be corrected."

Ellis Park to offer trainer bonuses

To help increase field sizes, Ellis Park announced Friday that it will offer $10,000 in bonus incentives to trainers with the most starts at the 41-day meet that begins July 13.

For purposes of the bonus, the meet will be divided roughly in half, with $1,000 bonuses awarded in five participation levels during each half. Those five categories range from 0-4 horses stabled at Ellis, to 26 and over. For more information, log on to ellisparkracing.com.

* The record for consecutive wins by a trainer at Churchill Downs will remain intact at least through Monday. Joe Woodard, who set the mark on Thursday, sending out two winners to stretch his streak to nine, scratched his lone scheduled starter on Friday, Prison of Love. Woodard does not have a horse entered here Saturday or Sunday.

* Trainer Bernie Flint has been fined $1,000 for a medication positive. Chief steward Mickey Sample said the fine stems from the use of pentoxifylline, a Class 4 medication that stimulates circulation in a horse's hooves. The horse, Ask the Lord, won the sixth race May 5.