01/17/2005 1:00AM

Going Wild takes stakes debut

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BENOIT PHOTO
Going Wild and jockey Mike Smith, inside, go neck and neck down the stretch with So Long Birdie and David Flores to win the $100,000 San Miguel Stakes on Monday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Going Wild made the successful jump from maiden winner to stakes winner in Monday's $106,900 at Santa Anita, overcoming a vicious duel with So Long Birdie to score by a nose.

The narrow margin of victory deceived co-owner Bob Lewis, who was afraid his starter was beaten.

"These wins, like a sliver, they do make you hold your breath," Lewis said. "Frankly, I didn't think we'd won it."

Ridden by Mike Smith, Going Wild was pressed throughout the six-furlong race for 3-year-olds. Going Wild dueled with Fallfree for the first half-mile before being engaged by So Long Birdie. A heavy favorite in a field of four, Going Wild ($3) finished six furlongs in 1:09.62.

So Long Birdie, also making his stakes debut, finished second, four lengths clear of General John B. Fallfree faded to last. Bushwacker and Senor Fango were withdrawn Monday morning.

Going Wild was purchased at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-olds in-training sale for $600,000 last year. He won his maiden in his fourth start here Dec. 26, leading throughout before scoring by two lengths.

After Monday's race, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Going Wild has seen the last of sprints for the time being. Lukas said he would like to stretch Going Wild out to a two-turn race, but did not mention a specific race.

The San Miguel was postponed for eight days after poor racing conditions forced the race to be abandoned Jan. 9. Going Wild was not entered for the Jan. 9 running.

Lukas said the extra week between the Dec. 26 maiden race and Monday's San Miguel Stakes worked to the advantage of Going Wild even though the weather curtailed the stable's training.

"I didn't do much with him," Lukas said. "It worked out all right. He is a better horse than this."