02/24/2006 1:00AM

Geier's hopes high for Coolwind


STICKNEY, Ill. - Few horse people stabled in Chicago this winter have a more durable connection to Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans than the trainer Greg Geier. As longtime Chicago trainer Gene Cilio's assistant, Geier spent 10 seasons at Fair Grounds, and it was long before then that Geier began wintering in New Orleans.

"If I had to guess, I'd say I've been there 20 years in a row," Geier said.

Years past, Geier would arrive late during the National Jockey Club meet and start readying for Arlington, but this winter, with Fair Grounds still cleaning up the Hurricane Katrina wreckage, Geier stayed in Chicago.

"It was a blow for everybody what happened there," Geier said. "It's such a good place to train your horses and everything. Everybody tells me, though, if you had to be up here in the winter, this is the best winter to have been up here with as warm as it's been."

If Geier is putting a positive spin on his situation, the return of Coolwind has helped. The 3-year-old filly had her first breeze of the season Feb. 15, going three furlongs in a snappy 37.20 seconds, second-fastest of 19 such breezes that morning. And having finished third in the Arlington-Washington Lassie, fourth in the Alcibiades, and third in the Pocahontas last fall, Coolwind ranks as one of the most promising horses on the grounds at Hawthorne.

Coolwind won her career debut last August at Arlington on the same day as Original Spin, looking every bit as impressive in so doing. But where Original Spin won the Arlington-Washington Lassie and finished a good third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Coolwind failed to break through at the stakes level after teasing with her obvious talent. Geier believes Coolwind can take that step this spring.

"I really think she can," he said. "She's matured a little bit more, physically and mentally. We'll see what she does."

Geier said Coolwind would be nominated for various stakes around the Midwest, but the filly remains eligible for an entry-level allowance race. "If we find one of those around somewhere, that'd be good, too."

Tomillo upbeat, with one exception

Tom Tomillo is in Florida - going to be there until April, he said Friday - but no trainer has entered more horses during the first week of this meet than Tomillo, who put five in for opening day, seven on Saturday, and another five on Sunday's card.

"Right now I should have 47 up there," Tomillo said. "They're all ready to run. I'm not going to say I'm going to have a good meet, but I'd say I hope to have a good meet."

Tomillo's winter would be even better if he could get Lord of the Game straightened out. Lord of the Game went from a $10,000 maiden-claimer to a graded-stakes horse during the course of 2005, but he has done little in the way of serious training this winter in Florida. Tomillo had hoped to make Gulfstream stakes races with Lord of the Game, but now he is considering shipping the horse back to Chicago to try and get him right.

When Lord of the Game was excluded from the Breeders' Cup Classic, he was shipped from Belmont to Keeneland for the Fayette Handicap, but for the first time all year, Lord of the Game failed to fire, finishing a distant sixth.

"Since Keeneland, he hasn't been the same horse," Tomillo said. "His blood's been going up and down, his color's not right, and he doesn't act like he did before. He's just not right, and I'm not going to run him until he's right."

Last Gran Standing needs surgery

Last Gran Standing, one of the best Illinois-bred 2-year-olds of 2005, has gone down with a bone chip in his knee after recording one published workout here this winter. Arthroscopic surgery will be performed to remove the chip, trainer Brian Williamson said, and Last Gran Standing, if all goes well, could make it back to the races sometime at Arlington.

"It looks like it shouldn't be too complicated, but sometimes once they get in there it can be worse than it looks," Williamson said.

Last year, Last Gran Standing, owned by the Russell Reineman Stable, won his first three starts, including a sharp tally in the $92,000 Sun Power Stakes. He concluded his season with a second-place finish in the Jim Edgar Futurity, Last Gran Standing's first start around two turns.

* The Sunday feature is race 8, an entry-level sprint allowance. Wild House, Asyouwish, and Foxy Tara appear to be the main contenders.