05/17/2004 12:00AM

Lots on tap for Southern Image


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Southern Image, who extended his winning streak to five with a victory in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special on Friday, is likely to have a busy campaign in California and Kentucky this summer.

Trainer Mike Machowsky is considering the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill on June 12, the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10, and the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 22.

Machowsky has a particular eye on the Pacific Classic and said he was hoping to use that race as Southern Image's final prep to the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.

"Ideally, we could run in all those races," Machowsky said. "If everything is going great, that's what I'd like to do. I want to make sure the shipping didn't take too much out of him."

Sunday, as Southern Image was being prepared for a return flight to California, Machowsky said Southern Image had rebounded well from the Pimlico Special.

"Everything is perfect so far," Machowsky said. "He was a little tired yesterday, but today he was bouncing around. He was acting like his old self."

In the Pimlico Special, Southern Image finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Midway Road. Dynever, the 8-5 favorite, finished fifth.

"My horse showed up, and the other horse didn't show up," said Machowsky, referring to Dynever. "I heard the track was too deep, but I wasn't too concerned about it."

Southern Image has won 6 of 7 starts and $1,681,600 for the partnership of Allen and Josh Tepper, Tom and Jerry Kagele, and Don Blahut. The five-race winning streak includes an allowance race at Del Mar last summer; three stakes at Santa Anita - the Malibu Stakes, Sunshine Millions Classic, and $1 million Santa Anita Handicap; and the Pimlico Special.

The Pimlico Special was Southern Image's first start outside of Southern California and first since the Santa Anita Handicap on March 6.

The victory, following a break of more than two months, was an encouraging sign for Machowsky, who may give Southern Image a similar break in the fall in advance of the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"Every time I've given him a layoff, he's run well," Machowsky said.

Gill keeping California as option

Owner Michael Gill, who shipped his stable of claiming horses from California to Maryland last week, said he has not ruled out a return to California in the fall - if he is granted stalls by track management.

But that may not happen, at least at Hollywood Park. Officials at Hollywood Park are upset that Gill has left the circuit and said he was unlikely to be granted stalls in the future.

On Sunday, track president Rick Baedeker said Gill "needs to apply somewhere else."

Gill, who claimed more than 100 horses in California, shipped the final 28 horses that he owns out of the Hollywood Park stable area last week. The departure marked the end of a disappointing seven-month run for Gill, whose runners won 11.7 percent of their starts in California. Last year, Gill led the nation's owners in victories.

The lack of success, particularly at the current Hollywood Park meeting, surprised Gill. At the current meeting, Gill had one win from 25 starters. All of the horses were trained by Nick Canani.

"Could I have done a better job claiming? Yes. Could Nick have done a better job of training? Yes," Gill said. "I know this is going to look bad."

Gill said that he has offered a training position in Virginia for Canani but that no plans have been finalized. Canani declined to comment on his future last week and did not return phone calls over the weekend. He has two horses left at Hollywood Park.

Gill claimed most of the runners that he campaigned in California but did bring a few runners from his Eastern stable.

Gill said that, in hindsight, he made a flurry of bad claims.

"You know the old saying, when you sit around the poker table and you can't find the sucker, then the sucker is you. That's the way I feel right now," he said.

Gill said that he will have 400 horses in training in the mid-Atlantic states and that in the fall he would consider sending a division to California.

"I'm not saying I wouldn't come back," Gill said. "If I thought I'd come back, I'd bring my own horses. They may say no. I'm not one to give up that easily."

Capitano targets Affirmed

Capitano, who has been second in four stakes in the last year, won the second race of his career in an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles Saturday and is likely to reappear in the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap on June 19, trainer Ray Bell said.

Capitano raced near the front throughout Saturday's allowance race. He took the lead from pacesetter M.P. Cat turning for home and was fully extended to hold off 76-1 Lindero by a neck.

"He still gets the lead and waits for other horses," Bell said. "He always seems to want to wait. I hope this will make him more businesslike."

The Affirmed Handicap is a prep for the $400,000 Swaps Stakes on July 10.

Star fillies on track for Hollywood BC

Elusive Diva and Hollywood Story, who have won graded stakes here in the last six months, are on course for the $175,000 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks on June 12.

Hollywood Story, who won the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet last December, worked a half-mile in 48 seconds Saturday. Hollywood Story finished fifth in the Kentucky Oaks on April 30, her most recent start.

Elusive Diva, who won her first stakes in the Railbird Stakes here May 2, worked a half-mile in 48.60 seconds Sunday at Santa Anita.

Chandtrue ready for Proctor

Chandtrue, a winner in his debut April 29, heads Sunday's $75,000 Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes over five furlongs. The Proctor is the first stakes of the year for 2-year-old males.

Trainer Bob Hess Jr. said Chandtrue is likely to use the Proctor as a prep to the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship over six furlongs July 17.

Saturday's top race is the $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes for 3-year-olds over a mile on turf. Laura's Lucky Boy, who won an allowance race on turf April 28, is a top contender.