01/26/2006 12:00AM

Dream of Summer still has right stuff at 7

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Dream of Summer, winning the Cal Cup Matron Handicap at Santa Anita in November, will run as the favorite in Saturday's Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park.

Dream of Summer already has reached $1 million in earnings and owns a Grade 1 victory. She is now 7, and most mares of her stature are headed to the breeding shed, if they are not there already. But owner James Weigel and trainer Juan Garcia are having so much fun with Dream of Summer that they intend to run her throughout the year, rather than send her to a stallion.

"She'll run all year if she keeps running good," Garcia said Thursday morning.

The attractions to keep Dream of Summer in training are many. She is the best horse Weigel, her breeder, has owned. She is racing in excellent form. And with the purses of races such as the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff, there is plenty of opportunity for Dream of Summer to put more cash in the bank. After all, according to the old saying, money makes the mare go.

should be a strong favorite on Saturday in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff, which is one of four Sunshine Millions races to be run at Gulfstream Park. She was third in this race last year, when it was run at 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita. Since then, however, Dream of Summer has improved significantly, including scoring a victory in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. She is coming off a second-place finish against open company in the Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park.

"She's good, fresh, and in good shape," Garcia said from Gulfstream Park, where Dream of Summer has been since Tuesday.

Garcia said his lone apprehension is how Dream of Summer will handle the travel. She was fine going to Oaklawn Park and Ellis Park last year, but ran below par last fall at Belmont Park, where she finished sixth, beaten 8 1/4 lengths in the Grade 1 Beldame. This will be her first race at Gulfstream, and her first trip since the Beldame.

"I'm just a little bit nervous about the trip," Garcia said. "The first day she was nervous, but this morning she's doing real good. She is stabled near the track, and when she hears the noise from the gate she has been acting up a little bit."

Dream of Summer's main rival appears to be another California-based California-bred, House of Fortune, who was second to Dream of Summer in the California Cup Matron in November and then broke a lengthy losing streak with a front-running victory last time out in the Cat's Cradle Handicap at Hollywood Park.

has sharp early speed and will benefit by her inside draw, a huge plus going two turns at Gulfstream. She has the rail, whereas Dream of Summer starts from post 7 in the field of nine.

Sweet Lips, a Florida-bred, scored an upset in this race last year at Santa Anita, but has had a checkered career since then. She recently returned from a nine-month layoff and never threatened after breaking poorly as the odds-on favorite in the Stage Door Betty Handicap at Calder.

Secret Corsage, another Florida-bred, has won three straight races on the main track. She has never beaten the likes of Dream of Summer or House of Fortune, but figures to get an ideal stalking trip under Jerry Bailey in the penultimate race of his career.

The field

Sunshine Millions Distaff
Purse: $500,000; 1 1/8 miles

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1House of Fortune (CA)P. Valenzuela1222-1
2Special Report (FL)E. Castro12220-1
3Snug Harbour (FL)J. Castellano12020-1
4Pitanga (FL)R. Bejarano12012-1
5American Miss (FL)J. Lezcano12220-1
6Secret Corsage (FL)J. Bailey1224-1
7Dream of Summer (CA)J. Velazquez1228-5
8Sweet Lips (FL)E. Prado1225-1
9Formal Lady (FL)R. Maragh12230-1

* Odds by Art Gropper
* Television: Saturday, 4:30-6 p.m. (Eastern), NBC