06/29/2004 11:00PM

Triple Bend topweight fifth on list

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Pohave has inherited the role of starting highweight in Saturday's $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap, and the absence of the five horses that were listed above him on the original invitation list has not exactly left Pohave's trainer, Doug O'Neill, brokenhearted.

The Grade 1 Triple Bend, run over seven furlongs, drew 14 entries on Wednesday. The race lacks a nationally prominent sprinter such as Alke, Ghostzapper, Lion Tamer, Speightstown, or Strong Hope, who were listed above Pohave in the weights.

But unlike Pohave, those horses are based at Belmont Park. When they defected, O'Neill canceled plans to send Pohave to Calder for the Smile Sprint Handicap on July 10.

"Our original plan was to go to Florida, but to have a race like this in your back yard that's a Grade 1, it's hard to pass up," O'Neill said.

The Triple Bend is one of four stakes on Saturday's program, which begins at noon. The program includes the $750,000 American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies and two $100,000 stakes at one mile on turf for females - the Flawlessly for 3-year-old fillies and the Royal Heroine for fillies and mares.

Pohave is having an excellent season. A former $50,000 claimer, he won the Grade 3 Los Angeles Times Handicap here on May 8. He was third behind Pico Central in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita in March and third to Speightstown in the Grade 2 True North Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park on June 5, his most recent start.

O'Neill cautioned that Pohave grabbed a quarter in his last workout, which could jeopardize his chances for a start.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, it was only a 1," O'Neill said. "He galloped today and it wasn't a problem."

Pohave will carry 116 pounds in the Triple Bend. Nose the Trade, a supplemental invitation earlier this week, and Reba's Gold are next on the list of weights at 115.

Southern Image still sidelined with sore foot

Southern Image, the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap and Pimlico Special this year, remains sidelined by a sore left foot, trainer Mike Machowsky said Wednesday.

The setback has prevented Southern Image from training since he galloped last Saturday at Santa Anita.

"It's pretty sore," he said. "We've soaked it a couple of times a day."

Before a scheduled workout last Sunday, Machowsky noticed that the 4-year-old Southern Image was not traveling well. As a result, plans were canceled for Southern Image to start in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10.

Machowsky said an abscess has not surfaced. He said he did not know when Southern Image would return to training.

"I'll be overly conservative," he said.

Southern Image has not started since

finishing second in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 12. Machowsky hopes to start Southern Image in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 22.

A winner of 6 of 8 starts and $1,843,750, Southern Image could have a prep in the $250,000 San Diego Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on Aug. 1.

Last summer at Del Mar, Southern Image was sidelined by a bruised foot that kept him away from racing until December, when he won the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.

"It was three weeks before I got him back to the track," Machowsky said.

If a similar situation occurs this summer, Southern Image could be rerouted to the $250,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap over a mile on Sept. 5.

Funny Cide, Seattle Fitz consider Gold Cup

The absence of Southern Image has cost the Gold Cup its favorite. As of Wednesday, the likely starters were Even the Score, Olmodavor, Total Impact, and Yessirgeneralsir.

Funny Cide, the winner of the 2003 Kentucky Derby, and Seattle Fitz, who won the Brooklyn Handicap last month at Belmont Park, are potential candidates for the race. Both are based at Belmont.

Wednesday, Yessirgeneralsir worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Hollywood Park. He was ridden by Omar Figueroa, who will have the mount in the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup.

Trained by Dallas Keen, Yessirgeneralsir, 4, won the Lone Star Handicap in his last start, on May 31. In recent works, Yessirgeneralsir has recorded fast times, but Keen did not want to see that on Wednesday.

"We wanted to slow him up a little," Keen said.

Dodgers' Lo Duca builds up small stable

Shortly after 9:30 on Tuesday evening, Paul Lo Duca of the Los Angeles Dodgers lashed a two-out single in the eighth inning to drive home teammate Jayson Werth. The Dodgers held on to beat the San Francisco Giants, 2-1.

Twelve hours later, Lo Duca was on the backstretch at Hollywood Park with friends, inspecting the small racing stable that he has acquired in recent months.

Lo Duca, 32, a National League all-star last year, has three horses in training - Waki American with Doug O'Neill, The Weej with Troy Bainum, and Prairie Predator with Simon Bray. Prairie Predator was acquired last week from Madeleine Paulson.

The Weej is scheduled to run Saturday at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, while Prairie Predator may start at Hollywood Park on Monday.

Lo Duca owns The Weej and Waki American in partnership with Mark Schlesinger. His involvement is a continuation of an interest formed while growing up in the Phoenix area.

"My dad owned some claiming horses and I wanted to get into it," Lo Duca said. "This is fun for me. Baseball is my first love, but this is right up there."

Unfortunately for Lo Duca, his baseball commitments sometimes interfere with racing. He was not able to be at Hollywood Park on June 19 when Waki American won a $32,000 claiming race.

"I've had two wins and I haven't been able to go," he said. "Monday is my only day off. It's tough for me."

Asked if he would be able to follow the progress of The Weej this weekend, Lo Duca smiled and said, "I'll find a way."