07/26/2005 11:00PM

Cougar Mtn Lodge takes Graduation Stakes

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DEL MAR, Calif. - A slight mishap at the start could not prevent Cougar Mtn Lodge from scoring his first stakes win in Wednesday's $125,000 Graduation Stakes at Del Mar.

Cougar Mtn Lodge ($3.80) rallied from fifth to win the Graduation by two lengths, finishing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.23. Blaze It, who dueled for the early lead, held second, finishing 1 1/2 lengths of Irish Bar in the field of seven state-bred 2-year-olds.

The start did not go well for Cougar Mtn Lodge, who broke from the rail. Ridden by Alex Solis, Cougar Mtn Lodge broke awkwardly and to the inside, forcing Solis to adjust his left stirrup. The incident left Cougar Mtn Lodge well off the pace, a change from his frontrunning six-length win in a maiden race at Hollywood Park in June.

Solis had Cougar Mtn Lodge third on the turn and made us considerable ground in the final furlong. "He keeps improving," Solis said. "In the last furlong, he ran really strong."

Bought privately for $235,000 in June, Cougar Mtn Lodge gave owners Leonard and Yolanda Fishelberg their first stakes winner.

Trained by Mike Mitchell, Cougar Mtn Lodge has won 2 of 5 starts and $116,508.