09/14/2011 3:53PM

Belmont: Former Kentucky Derby prospect Wilkinson now focusing on turf in Summing


ELMONT, N.Y. – When he began the year with a victory in the Lecomte Stakes in January at Fair Grounds, Wilkinson automatically became high on a lot of people’s list of Kentucky Derby hopefuls.

But if his last race is any indication, Wilkinson’s future appears to be on turf. After winning a third-level allowance race – albeit against only three rivals – last month at Saratoga, Wilkinson steps into stakes company in Friday’s $60,000 Summing at Belmont Park.

Wilkinson will meet five rivals, including stakes winners Adirondack Summer and Rustler Hustler in the Summing, carded at one mile over the Widener Turf course.

As a son of Lemon Drop Kid, Wilkinson is certainly bred to handle the turf. He was twice entered for turf, but both races were moved to the dirt.

Wilkinson, who underwent throat surgery following a ninth-place finish in the Ohio Derby in June, made his turf debut on Aug. 22 where he overcame a slow pace to rally from off the pace and win a third-level allowance by 1 3/4 lengths.

“I was taking a wait and see attitude,’’ trainer Neil Howard said when asked his expectations for Wilkinson on turf. “I wasn’t shocked. He’s been a nice horse for us. He ran a good race, he moved good at the end. He’s kind of handy. He’s trained good since the race. This is a little bit of a step up, we’ll see.’’

Wilkinson breaks from the rail under John Velazquez.

Trainer Christophe Clement sends out the uncoupled entry of Philly Ace and Adirondack Summer. Philly Ace – as well as Summing contender Rustler Hustler – scratched out of last Saturday’s Crowd Pleaser Stakes at Parx when that race came off the turf. Philly Ace won a first-level Pennsylvania-bred allowance at Parx on July 31. He also owns a maiden win at Belmont in the spring.

Joe Bravo rides Philly Ace from post 4.

Adirondack Summer has not run since finishing third, a neck behind Air Support in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland in April. He too owns a maiden win at Belmont. Alan Garcia rides Adirondack Summer from post 6.

“Philly Ace has got more tactical speed, I would say Adirondack Summer is a late closer,’’ said Christophe Lorieul, assistant to Clement. “On back form, Adirondack Summer is a touch better horse but they both deserve a shot in that race.’’

Rustler Hustler won a stakes similar to this last fall, but is winless in two starts this year. He showed speed in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga, before finishing fourth, beaten two lengths by Big Blue Kitten.

Top Surprize makes his first start off the claim for owner/trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul. Preachintothedevil, third in the Albany Stakes on dirt, makes his second start on turf for trainer Gary Contessa. He finished fourth in the A Gift Stakes going seven furlongs on grass in the spring.