01/07/2010 12:00AM

Royale Michele will be bet in What a Summer

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Almost 11 months ago, Royale Michele shipped from her home base of Mountaineer Racetrack to Laurel Park, where she surprised most bettors by upsetting the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at 10-1.

The 5-year-old Royale Michele figures to be a much shorter price when she returns to Maryland for the first time since then for Saturday's $70,000 What a Summer Stakes at Laurel.

The six-furlong sprint drew a field of 10 fillies and mares, including the locally based Aspenglow, the winner of four straight races out of town, and Delaware Park-based filly Cuvee Uncorked, who most recently rallied to get third in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct.

Royale Michele is winless in five starts since taking the Barbara Fritchie, but aside from two other ventures against graded stakes company, she has consistently posted Beyer Speed Figures in the upper 80s and low 90s that stamp her a major contender in this spot.

Although she has been off since failing as the 1-5 favorite in an allowance on Nov. 29, Royale Michele has fired fresh in the past, having won 2 of 4 starts following similar layoffs, including the Barbara Fritchie.

Royale Michele was scheduled to defend her title in the New Year's Eve Stakes at Mountaineer on Dec. 29, but that program was canceled due to bad weather.

Aspenglow trains at Laurel as part of Gary Capuano's highly successful stable, but as a West Virginia-bred she has raced almost exclusively at Charles Town. She cuts back to six furlongs after six consecutive starts in two-turn races going seven furlongs. In her lone previous start at Laurel, she set the pace and faded in the Marshua.

Cuvee Uncorked has never been worse than third in five lifetime starts, including a 3-for-4 record in sprints. Her third in the Top Flight came at a mile.

Aside from Cuvee Uncorked, the other interesting horse cutting back in distance is Sweet Goodbye, whose last 10 starts have either been two-turn seven-furlong races at Charles Town or routes ranging in distance from one mile to 1 1/4 miles.

In her favor, trainer Chris Grove excels with horses cutting back in distance, showing a 7-for-28 record the past two years, according to DRF's Formulator.