12/05/2009 12:00AM

Summer Bird appears fine


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Summer Bird, the nation's leading 3-year-old in 2009, underwent successful surgery to mend a nondisplaced fracture of the cannon bone of his right foreleg on Friday and could return to trainer Tim Ice's winter base in Arkansas as soon as the middle of this week.

The surgery, to install a stabilizing screw, was conducted in a backstretch hospital at Hollywood Park. Summer Bird will remain in California for a few days while his condition is assessed, and could be flown to Oaklawn Park on Wednesday if he has recovered sufficiently, Ice said.

"The surgery went excellent," Ice said on Friday. "We have a good prognosis. We'll look at him Tuesday. If he looks good Tuesday night, he'll fly out on Wednesday morning."

Summer Bird was in Japan training for the Japan Cup Dirt when the injury was detected. He arrived in California last week. Dr. Wayne McIlwraith conducted the surgery.

Ice said that Summer Bird is expected to return to training by the spring.

"He'll spent two weeks in a stall, and we'll get out walking a little bit," Ice said. "Basically, he'll need three or four months of rest. There is no cartilage damage at all. We still have a racehorse."

Ice envisions having Summer Bird ready for a return to racing by the summertime, possibly for the Saratoga meeting.

Owned by Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman, Summer Bird has won 4 of 9 starts and $2,323,040. His 2009 campaign has been highlighted by major stakes wins in the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes, and Jockey Club Gold Cup and a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.

Free Flying Soul may try Santa Monica

Free Flying Soul's growing collection of stakes wins this fall could lead to a start in a Grade 1 race at Santa Anita next month.

Friday, Free Flying Soul won the $66,200 Winter Stakes at Hollywood Park in her first start since a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 6. Earlier this fall, she won the Louis Rowan Stakes for female sprinters at Santa Anita.

Her current form has trainer Bruce Headley considering a start in the $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap, a Grade 1 over seven furlongs for fillies and mares, at Santa Anita on Jan. 31.

Headley said in the winner's circle that he would like to give Free Flying Soul a prep race in late December or early January before the Santa Monica.

In the Winter Stakes, Free Flying Soul ($4.20) led from the start under jockey Mike Smith, repelled a challenge from Reba Is Tops in the final furlong, and won by two lengths, finishing six furlongs in 1:09.01.

"When she switched leads, she took off," Headley said. "She's been sharp and ready to go."

Empressive Lady, the 11-1 outsider in a field of six, finished third after trying to keep pace with Free Flying Soul in the first half-mile.

Owned by Marsha Naify, Free Flying Soul has won 4 of 9 starts and $245,346.