11/24/2006 1:00AM

Coolwind the marquee filly


Most years, Greg Geier would be settling into Fair Grounds for a winter in New Orleans. Geier came to Fair Grounds for years as an assistant to Gene Cilio, and kept coming after Cilio passed away and Geier took over many of his horses. But this season, Geier turned back the 18 stalls he was offered at Fair Grounds and will winter instead at Tampa Bay Downs.

"Well, when I turned them down I didn't have enough help," Geier said Friday from Hawthorne. "None of my help wanted to go, and if you don't have any when you're down there, you're in trouble. I'm going to go to Tampa, and get out of here for about two months."

Geier, however, still has some business to take care of at Hawthorne, a chief piece of which is Coolwind's appearance in the featured fifth race on Sunday. It's the rare open stakes horses who makes a Hawthorne appearance this time of year, but Coolwind's that kind of horse - though you wouldn't know it from her most recent start.

Coolwind went to Hoosier Park for the Oct. 6 Indiana Oaks and finished seventh of eight, beaten almost 15 lengths by the winner, Baghdaria. But Coolwind, Geier said, got the wrong kind of trip in the Indiana Oaks, and might not have been at her best shipping into a new track and racing at night for the first time.

"She broke so sharp, Eddie [Razo] got caught up there," Geier said of Coolwind's trip. "He tried to get her back, but she didn't want any part of that."

Geier suggested the race is a throwout, and pointed out that another filly who had run poorly in the race, Ermine, had come back to win two straight at Churchill, including the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap on Thursday.

Sunday's third-level allowance obviously is not Coolwind's major goal - Geier said Coolwind could wind up in a stakes race in Florida or New Orleans later in the winter - but she should win with anything approaching her best race. The Hawthorne racing strip has bounced between deep and laboring and inside-speed favoring in recent race days, but Geier said Coolwind has trained well over it.

There are nine others in the Sunday feature, carded for 1 1/16 miles, and the field also includes Lampoon, most recently second in the $89,000 Illini Princess on Hawthorne's fall Illinois-bred day. With several pace horses in the race, an inside-drawn stalking type like Lampoon could provide a decent alternative to those unwilling to take a short price on Coolwind.