07/15/2004 12:00AM

Things could fall in place for 'Mighty'


Over much of the Churchill Downs meet, Mighty Military couldn't catch a break. Saturday at Ellis Park, he finally appears to have caught one - in the $75,000 Regaey Island Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on grass.

Mighty Military, a 3-year-old turf horse by Military, has caught a group of grass runners he appears to outclass. Now he just needs a little luck.

After winning his turf debut April 29 at Churchill Downs, earning a 92 Beyer Speed Figure, things unraveled for Mighty Military. His troubles began in mid-May, when he was in the starting gate as the favorite in a second-level allowance on turf. He threw a tantrum, got himself stuck momentarily, and was scratched by the stewards on advice of the track veterinarian.

Fortunate to escape without serious injury, Mighty Military returned in late May. This time the weather contributed to a loss. Rain forced the race to the main track, and being less effective over that surface, he finished a distant third.

Trainer Bob Holthus and owner David Walts then tried Mighty Military in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup. Rain fell again, creating a yielding turf course. Then, during a key point in the race on the far turn, he was shuffled back in traffic. Showing determination, Mighty Military got back into the race and finished fifth, beaten 7 1/2 lengths by Prince Arch and Kitten's Joy.

Matched against a lesser group in the Regaey Island, one that appears roughly equivalent to a two-other-than allowance at Churchill Downs, Mighty Military is in position to return to his winning ways. Regular rider John McKee has the mount.

A neck behind Mighty Military in the Jefferson Cup was sixth-place finisher Capo, who should also appreciate a drop in class. In the Jefferson Cup, Capo was farther off the pace than he was accustomed, rallied wide into contention on the far turn, and then flattened out in the stretch.

Previously, Capo was third behind Kitten's Joy and Prince Arch in the Crown Royal American Turf on April 30 at Churchill Downs. Tony D'Amico rides for trainer Carl Nafzger.

Beyond the Jefferson Cup stakes droppers, most of the 10-horse field comprises promising allowance runners. Pay the Fox, who has been in the money in six consecutive races, leads them. He comes off a fast win June 26 at Churchill Downs, a race in which he defeated Heroic Deed, another Regaey Island starter.