11/26/2003 12:00AM

Taking the leap with Geronimo


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Friday is the day after, and all across America the logy effects of tryptophan - turkey's little chemical surprise - will be starting to wear off. Kitchens will reek of candied yams. Wishbones will be drying on chilly windowsills, and there will be smears of telltale red stain on mom's white table linens where cranberries were served in haste.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once emerged from a traditional Thanksgiving orgy to offer a list of culinary recommendations, entitled "Turkey Remains and How to Inter Them with Numerous Scarce Recipes." They included such leftover ideas as turkey cocktail, turkey mousse, turkey remnant and, a personal favorite, turkey with whiskey sauce:

"This recipe is for a party of four. Obtain a gallon of whiskey, and allow it to age for several hours. Then serve, allowing one quart for each guest. The next day the turkey should be added, little by little, constantly stirring and basting."

For those not heading straight for the shopping malls, the best post-Thanksgiving bet is the three-day buffet at Hollywood Park, commencing on Friday with the Miesque Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and the Hollywood Turf Express for all comers.

Saturday, the Generous Stakes gives 2-year-old colts a turn on stage, after which the Citation Handicap will take a bow, fresh from the announcement that it has been anointed with Grade 1 status for the following year.

Then on Sunday, the festival concludes with the $600,000 Hollywood Derby and the $500,000 Matriarch, with what looks like 28 stakes horses running rampant over the grass. Hold a good thought for the weather.

Friday's Turf Express, with a purse of $150,000, promises to be one of those no-holds-barred gang fights over a layout affectionately known as "The Hook." The starting position for the 5 1/2 furlongs affords fast sprinters a long run down the backstretch to build up steam. Then comes a tight switchback, followed by a straightaway run to the finish of only 330 yards, or 1 1/2 furlongs. Stretch runners always have a disadvantage.

That is why Mike Machowsky is praying that Turf Express favorite King Robyn will have some heat up front early to render him vulnerable in the final yards. Machowsky will be trying to win the race with Geronimo, who figures to come flying at the end.

Geronimo - is there a better name for a racehorse? - hails from Chile, where he won 6 of 10 races, small stakes mostly, while sprinting on the grass. After being imported earlier this year, Geronimo ran three times without winning before trainer Doug O'Neill dropped him in for an $80,000 claiming tag at Santa Anita on Oct. 2.

Machowsky took the bait, and he's happy he did.

"I really noticed him the day he ran in a route race at Del Mar," Machowsky said. "He got washy that day and was rank, trying to run off the whole way. Doug gelded him after that, which I think was the right thing to do, and it looked like he was working well. I thought he was worth a shot."

The claiming game in California has undergone a vigorous renewal in the last year, forcing nearly every trainer to keep his eye on that part of the business. There was a time when an $80,000 claiming price would chase almost everyone away.

"Not anymore," Machowsky said, "because it's so hard to find anything good for 40 or 50."

Machowsky's experience with South Americans dates back to his days as an assistant with Richard Mandella.

"I don't think you can give up on South American horses too early," Machowsky said. "They seem to come into themselves later on, after they've had some racing and get used to the way we run here. This horse has been here long enough now that the Northern Hemisphere seasons don't affect him."

Geronimo is now owned by the Surfside Stable syndicate, which is managed by Machowsky and includes the trainer's father, Helmut Machowsky. He is a neatly made chestnut with a broad white blaze whose breeding rings familiar to Southern Californians.

His fashionably bred sire, Gold Tribute, finished second to entrymate Silver Charm in the 1996 Del Mar Futurity. His dam is by the Chilean stallion Mocito Guapo, a national institution whose best son, Malek, won the 1998 Santa Anita Handicap and finished a close second in the 1999 Dubai World Cup.

Because of that, Machowsky thinks that someday Geronimo will be able to be effective at a mile. But first things first. Geronimo ran well in his debut for his new people on Oct. 24, finishing a close third to King Robyn in the Morvich Handicap down the hill at Santa Anita.

"I missed a little training time with him," Machowsky said. "He popped an abscess in a foot not long after we got him. And then he didn't switch leads in that race until real late, so I suppose that foot might have still been stinging him a little.

"Now I've gotten to know him a little better, and he hasn't missed any training, knock on wood. When we took him, he seemed like all he had to do was get a couple lengths better, and he might turn out to be a stakes horse."

Friday might be the day Machowsky finds out.