11/21/2008 12:00AM

New light beams in Mitchell barn


STICKNEY, Ill. - Go back to 2003, and trainer Tony Mitchell won eight stakes races. A filly named Summer Mis accounted for three of them, including a Grade 3 sprint at the fall Keeneland meet.

Summer Mis is a broodmare now, and Mitchell has not won a stakes race of any sort since 2005, but after watching Summer Mis's first foal, Summer's Empire, win an allowance race here this week, Mitchell should have a chance to win a stakes race next month at Hawthorne. Summer's Empire, Mitchell confirmed Friday, is being pointed to the Dec. 13 Jim Edgar Futurity, and the way he looked winning Wednesday, he'll have a chance in the race.

Mitchell was based in Chicago during his heyday in the mid 2000s, but the quality and quantity of his stock started sliding, and in 2007 Mitchell won only 8 races from 66 runners. But his operation has changed. Mitchell and his wife, Sherri, bought a farm in Versailles, Ky., where Sherri Mitchell breaks young horses. Mitchell has stalls at Keeneland, where 2-year-olds he trains - like Summer's Empire - get their earliest racetrack experience.

"It's a little slow coming around, but we're chipping away," Mitchell said. "I've shared the ups, and suffered the downs."

Chicagoan Richard Otto bred and still owns Summer Mis, and now he has reason to be hopeful with her first foal. Summer's Empire debuted way back in April at Keeneland, but finished ninth in a short sprint race, and then - after a break of nearly four months - finished third and seventh in one-turn mile races on Arlington's Polytrack. But it was here at Hawthorne, when Summer's Empire stretched to two turns on dirt, that his talent began coming out. He won an Illinois-bred maiden race by a neck on Oct. 23, and on Wednesday scored by more than six lengths in an open two-turn allowance race despite being checked just before the quarter pole.

"It was a nice education for the horse to overcome all that," Mitchell said. "There were times when he didn't figure it out, but he seems to have figured it out now."

Summer Mis won a six-furlong maiden race in her second career start by 14 lengths, but Summer's Empire does not have that kind of speed, and probably takes more after her sire, Empire Maker.

"The education of that early run helped him," Mitchell said. "These horses I got started early, they all wanted to go long, and we just had to wait for the route races."

Mitchell has been waiting for a good horse for a few years. Waiting for the right distance - no problem.

Strait of Mewsina likely Florida-bound

It is fair to say that Chicago racing fans did not line the Hawthorne rail to watch, but the stakes-level turf horse Strait of Mewsina worked six furlongs between the third and fourth races here on Thursday. The workout didn't appear on the official clocking tab, but trainer Larry Rivelli said Strait of Mewsina went in about 1:18 while working out in the middle of the course.

Strait of Mewsina, an Irish import owned by Richard Ravin, ran a career-best race getting up late to win the Hawthorne Derby here on Oct. 11. Rivelli said he was somewhat between two spots for the horse, with both next week's Hollywood Derby and the Dec. 13 William McKnight at Calder on his radar, but the McKnight seems like the far more likely spot.

"I like the fact that Hollywood is straight 3-year-olds at the end of the year, but there aren't horses in the race at Calder like there are going to be out there," Rivelli said.

Rivelli will have a major presence in Florida for the first time this winter. Between stables at Gulfstream itself and Palm Beach Downs, Rivelli said he would have some 48 horses in Florida over the winter.

"I said last year I'd give it a try next year, and next year is now," said Rivelli.

Coach Jimi Lee going for comeback

Coach Jimi Lee, who holds the Illinois state record for six furlongs on dirt, is attempting a comeback as his ninth birthday approaches.

Away from the races since April 5, Coach Jimi Lee has raced just four times since 2006, when he had a productive year. But The Coach has posted a trio of three-furlong workouts at Crupi's New Castle Farm in Ocala, Fla., and trainer Jim DiVito will attempt to get the horse back to the races at the Gulfstream meet, DiVito said Friday.

"He was on an Equisizer for a month, and that got him up to jogging, and then he breezed three-eighths three times," DiVito said. "I went to watch him, and he went really good. The question is if he's still got the fire, and he seems to still have the spirit."