07/28/2005 12:00AM

Southern Image retired due to injury


DEL MAR, Calif. - Southern Image, one of the top handicap horses of 2004, has been retired because of concerns over soreness in his cannon bones, trainer Mike Machowsky said.

The injury was detected earlier this week. Machowsky said the injury would require a lengthy rest and would prevent Southern Image from starting in the major races of the fall. Southern Image, 5, has not started this year.

"We're going to call it quits," Machowsky said.

Owned by Tom and Jerry Kagele and Don Blahut, Southern Image won 6 of 8 starts and $1,843,750.

He won four consecutive stakes in 2003-2004 - the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes, the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic, the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, and the Pimlico Special. The latter two races are Grade 1 stakes.

After finishing second in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in June 2004, Southern Image was taken out of training last summer because of injury.

He returned to training earlier this year before the recent setback.

Machowsky said that stallion farms nationwide have inquired about Southern Image's status, but that no decisions have been made.

"There have been a few guys calling," he said. "We wanted to keep him racing instead of sending him to stud. He's the sort I wouldn't bring back unless he was 100 percent."

Geronimo goes long in Wickerr

In early 2004, Geronimo was best at a mile on turf, winning an allowance race at Santa Anita and appearing in the Grade 2 Frank Kilroe Mile, finishing seventh.

But in the past year, he has run in sprints, placing in two stakes but failing to win.

In an attempt to give Geronimo, 6, his first stakes win since last August, trainer John Sadler is reverting to a longer race, starting him in Saturday's $75,000 Wickerr Handicap.

The race could end a four-race losing streak that dates back to the day he was claimed for $80,000 by owners Cecil and Gary Barber at Santa Anita in February.

"Lately, his style is to come charging and not quite get there," Sadler said. "He's not running bad races. We want to try something different."

Geronimo won at a mile earlier in his career. At this meet last summer, he won the five-furlong Green Flash Handicap.

In the Wickerr, Geronimo is one of nine starters in a well-matched field.

The Wickerr is restricted to nonwinners of a stakes worth $50,000 or more other than statebred stakes at a mile or farther since May 1.

The only 2005 stakes winners in the field are Running Free, who won the $150,000 Khaled Stakes for state-breds at Hollywood Park in April, and Saint Afleet, who won the $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap at six furlongs at Santa Anita in January.

Others have come close. Golden Arrow placed in four turf sprints this year. Tsigane was third in the

$1 million Godolphin Mile in Dubai in March, and Just Wonder was third in the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood Park in April.

The Wickerr could produce a few starters for the $350,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap at a mile on turf on Sept. 4. The race was run on dirt in previous seasons.

Cougar Mtn Lodge wins first stakes

A slight mishap at the start did not prevent Cougar Mtn Lodge from scoring his first stakes win in Wednesday's $125,000 Graduation Stakes.

Cougar Mtn Lodge ($3.80) rallied from fifth to win the Graduation by two lengths, covering the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.23. Blaze It, who dueled for the early lead, held second, finishing 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Irish Bar in the field of seven statebred 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 front-running six-length win in a maiden race at Hollywood Park in June.

Solis had Cougar Mtn Lodge third on the turn and made up 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.

Mitchell hinted that Cougar Mtn Lodge would return in the $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for statebreds at six furlongs on Sept. 5.

But Leonard Fishelberg and Mitchell are hoping that Cougar Mtn Lodge develops into a router.

"We bought him for next year, going long, so we'll have to give him a break to do that," Mitchell said.

Crosby crucial for Battle Won

Battle Won, already a proven top sprinter in Kentucky this year, starts in Sunday's $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap, a race that trainer Chuck Simon sees as vital to his goal of reaching the Breeders' Cup Sprint this fall.

"If we don't do well, he doesn't belong in the Breeders' Cup Sprint," Simon said. "This will give us a better perspective."

The Bing Crosby will have a strong field, led by Pico Central, a four-time stakes winner last year, as well as local graded stakes winners Areyoutalkintome and Surf Cat.

Battle Won is one of two shippers from the Midwest, along with Top Commander, the winner of the Count Fleet Sprint at Oaklawn Park in April. Top Commander is trained by Cole Norman, who won the 2003 Bing Crosby with Beau's Town.

The Bing Crosby will be Battle Won's first Grade 1 start, though that is not the main reason that Simon shipped the 5-year-old to California.

"The $300,000 was more the lure," Simon said. "He's a gelding, so the grade doesn't really matter."

Owned by Californians Jay and Gretchen Manoogian, Battle Won scored an upset win at 16-1 in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on the Kentucky Derby undercard in May. In his only subsequent start, Battle Won finished second as the favorite in the Grade 3 Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 25.

"Last year, when we bought him midseason, we were trying to find our way with him," Simon said. "He had a lot of races on turf, but I think he was at a disadvantage going that short."

Simon is well aware of the difficulty of shipping to California and winning a sprint stakes, but admits he was influenced by the success of Beau's Town. In addition, he canvassed other horsemen about the Del Mar surface.

"It is tough to go East to West, but I do recall that horse winning," he said of Beau's Town. "I talked to [jockey] Mike Smith and a few other people. I think Del Mar is more like Churchill Downs than other tracks, and I know he likes Churchill Downs."