03/08/2004 12:00AM

Met Mile next for Southern Image

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Southern Image will be pointed for the $750,000 Met Mile at Belmont Park on May 31 after his record-setting win in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

"That's the inkling right now, and we'll see how he is in a few weeks," Machowsky said. "We'll pull the shoes off. He runs well fresh. He's proven that."

Making only his sixth start, Southern Image won the Big Cap by 1 1/4 lengths over the filly Island Fashion. Earlier at the meeting, Southern Image won the $250,000 Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26 and the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic for California-breds and Florida-breds on Jan. 24.

The purses from those three wins were $1.3 million, which surpasses the previous high of $1,175,000 set at this meeting in 1988 by Alysheba.

Sunday, Machowsky was still in a state of shock.

"I still can't believe it," he said.

Sidelined by minor injuries in the past, Southern Image will have a chance in coming weeks to recover from a bruise that has developed in recent months, which Machowsky downplayed.

"He's had a little bruise in the right foot I've been fighting all winter," he said. "It bothers me more than the horse.

"It's a common bruise that most horses have around here. Feet can be great one day and bad the next."

Southern Image, 4, has won 5 of 6 starts and $1,381,600. A three-time stakes winner in his brief career, his only loss was a third in the 2003 San Vicente Stakes. He has been sidelined by injury on two occasions, a problem with a pastern in February 2003 and a bruised foot at Del Mar last August.

With that history, Machowsky plans a light campaign in coming months.

"We'll try to keep a fresh horse along the way," he said. "I want to run next year, and if there is a year after that, it'd be great."

After Saturday's race, co-owner Alan Tepper looked at the colt with a new perspective.

"The first thing to do this week is increase the insurance," he said.

Expect Island Fashion to face males again

Island Fashion is likely to have more starts against males in coming months after her game runner-up finish.

"We're not lacking in confidence," owner Jeffrey Nielsen said. "She can do that again. She can sprint, she can go a mile and a quarter, and she can run on turf. She gives you a lot of flexibility."

The Big Cap was Island Fashion's third start of the meeting. She won two seven-furlong stakes for females earlier - the La Brea Stakes in December and the Santa Monica Handicap in January. She was scratched from El Encino Stakes in mid-January in favor of the Santa Monica and from the Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 16 in favor of the Big Cap.

Island Fashion became the third female to finish second in the Big Cap, joining Next Move (1951) and Gamely (1969). In the 67-year history of the race, 41 fillies and mares have started, but none has won.

"During the week, they questioned me about her running against males, but I've got so much faith in her," trainer Marcelo Polanco said.

Dubai next target for Pleasantly Perfect

Pleasantly Perfect was the morning-line favorite for the Big Cap but did not start after spiking a temperature on Friday. He returned to the racetrack for a gallop on Sunday and trainer Richard Mandella is tentatively planning a start in the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 27.

Mandella said Pleasantly Perfect will need a workout in coming days to be ready for the world's richest race.

"His temperature was normal and that's the important thing," he said on Sunday. "I'm going to have to get serious in a couple of days. I missed two days of training and that's okay, but I can't lose much more."

Pleasantly Perfect has won three consecutive stakes - the Goodwood Handicap and Breeders' Cup Classic last fall and the San Antonio Handicap on Jan. 31.

Suspension possible for Nakatani

Jockey Corey Nakatani will appear before Santa Anita stewards on Wednesday for a hearing regarding a spill that occurred on the backstretch of Saturday's sixth race.

Nakatani could face sanctions for his role in the spill.

Riding Mister Cosmi, Nakatani bumped Terrifying, who was ridden by Javiar Santiago, causing that horse to stumble and Santiago to be unseated.

The incident occurred near the half-mile pole of a one-mile turf race for $50,000 claimers. Mister Cosmi was racing along the rail, with Terrifying to his outside. When the field reached the backstretch, Terrifying appeared to drift in, forcing Mister Cosmi into the rail.

Nakatani and Santiago appeared to exchange words before Nakatani's mount drifted out and struck Terrifying. Terrifying stumbled and Santiago was unseated. He was thrown clear of his mount and was not struck by a trailing horse.

When Santiago hit the ground, his helmet came off and soared in the air. The rider quickly sat up and could be seen on a head-on camera watching the field continue down the backstretch.

Steward Pete Pedersen said Santiago would appear at the hearing along with other riders that participated in the race.

Santiago was not injured. He rode the remainder of Saturday's program and traveled to Fair Grounds on Sunday, where he won the Louisiana Derby aboard Wimbledon.

Halfbridled returns Saturday

Three winners on Breeders' Cup Day last October, two of which were later named champions, will start in major stakes this weekend.

Halfbridled, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2003 and winner of the BC Juvenile Fillies, makes her first start of the year in Saturday's $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks.

Sunday, Action This Day, the champion 2-year-old male of 2003 and winner of the BC Juvenile, makes his second start of 2004 in the $250,000 San Felipe Stakes. The program also features the $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap for older fillies and mares. The field includes Adoration, winless in two starts since her upset victory in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Mandella has not announced a jockey for Halbridled.

Julie Krone, who was aboard for all four of Halfbridled's wins in 2003, is sidelined with the lingering effects of two fractured ribs suffered in a spill at Hollywood Park on Dec. 12.

Mandella wanted to use Solis, but he is booked on A.P. Adventure, who won the Las Virgenes Stakes in her last start.

The Santa Anita Oaks is expected to include Hollywood Story, Salty Romance, Silent Sighs, Stellar Jayne, and Vencedora Amiga.

In the San Felipe over 1 1/16 miles, Action This Day is expected to face Don'tsellmeshort, Harvard Avenue, Odds On, Preachinatthebar, Rush Into Heaven, St Averil, and Toasted.

Adoration will be coupled with Fencelineneighbor on the Santa Margarita over 1 1/8 miles on dirt. Both are owned by Amerman Racing and trained by Machowsky.

Star Parade and Bare Necessities, who finished first and second in the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 16, lead a small field that will include La Tour.

Mer de Corail will miss the race because of a skin infection, trainer Patrick Biancone said.

Sarafan headed to Dubai

Sarafan, fourth in the Saturday's Kilroe Mile in his 2004 debut, will make his next start in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Nad Al Sheba on March 27.

Sarafan rallied from 12th to finish three lengths behind race winner Sweet Return. The Kilroe was Sarafan's first start since a 17th in the Japan Cup last November.

"He always needs a prep when he comes back," trainer Neil Drysdale said.

Owned by Gary Tanaka, Sarafan has won 9 of 37 starts and $2,411,271. Sarafan, 7, has not won a stakes since the restricted Brubaker Handicap at Del Mar last summer.

Big Cap business increases

Attendance and handle figures for Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap program showed gains compared with 2003.

Saturday's ontrack crowd of 27,653 marked a gain of 7 percent over the 2003 attendance of 25,803, the lowest in event history. Saturday's attendance was the third lowest in the history of the race.

Saturday's all-sources handle was $21,504,619, the highest of the meeting and a 1 percent gain over last year.