07/15/2004 11:00PM

Mullins takes the richer road

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Benoit & Associates
Summer Wind Dancer, shown after her win in the Hawthorne 'Cap, will make her first start outside California in Sunday's Delaware Handicap.

Why stay home to run for $250,000 when you can travel 3,000 miles to take a shot at a $750,000 purse and face an easier group of fillies and mares?

The answer was a no-brainer for trainer Jeff Mullins. It explains why he scratched Summer Wind Dancer out of last Sunday's Grade 1 Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park and chose to have her make her first start outside California in this Sunday's Grade 2 , a 1 1/4-mile race that has come up relatively soft.

Instead of facing Grade 1 winners Star Parade and Victory Encounter, Summer Wind Dancer will be meeting nine rivals, including just two, Roar Emotion and Savedbythelight, who have won a graded stakes within the past year. Neither of those horses is in top form. Roar Emotion, an easy winner of the Grade 3 Sabin at Gulfstream Park in February, was last of six going 1 1/8 miles over a sloppy track in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs last month. Savedbythelight will be racing on dirt for the first time since she won the Grade 3 Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct last December.

Mullins admitted the Milady "was probably a little bit tougher than the race at Delaware" when asked why he chose to make the cross-country trip rather than remain in California. "I feel like this filly can run a mile and a half, so a mile and a quarter suits her a little bit better than the mile and a sixteenth in California. The last reason is because the money is better."

Summer Wind Dancer, a 4-year-old, has mainly competed against California-breds the past two seasons, but comes off a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure beating open company in the Grade 3 Hawthorne Handicap at Hollywood Park in early June.

The dangerous horse for the course is Misty Sixes, a 6-year-old mare who is 3 for 3 at Delaware since May.

A chronic bleeder, Misty Sixes was claimed for $40,000 in late 2002 and has blossomed under the patient handling of trainer Steve Klesaris.

"She was a real challenge. When she came to us, she was a very, very bad bleeder," Klesaris said. "I always thought that if she could get a good break for the winter, which we were able to give her last winter, that she could probably be an even better filly.

"So far, everything has worked according to our plan. This year, she has answered the bell. Not once, but three times, and I think there is more in the tank."