06/25/2003 11:00PM

Summer Colony favored


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Azeri casts a commanding shadow over the older fillies and mares division. The reigning Horse of the Year has been nearly flawless with only one loss in 14 career starts.

Summer Colony, the leading lady in Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Molly Pitcher Handicap at Monmouth Park, pinned that lone defeat on Azeri in the La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 9, 2002.

The upset remains a source of pride for trainer Mark Hennig. "Obviously, she's the only one to beat her," Hennig said. "That's one distinction no one else has at this point."

Summer Colony and Azeri met one othet time last year, in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, with Azeri getting the upper hand. Azeri galloped off with Horse of the Year honors; Summer Colony, beaten 21 lengths, got an extended vacation.

"We gave her a rest at the end of last year," Hennig said. "She had gone pretty much straight through her 3- and 4-year-old years without any kind of break. We decided to bring her back and shoot for some of the same races that we ran in last year."

The Molly Pitcher was one of those repeat targets.

Summer Colony suffered a one-length loss to Atelier in last year's Molly Pitcher as the 3-5 favorite.

"She got unlucky there last year," Hennig said.

Atelier set the pace with Summer Colony in good stalking position. Eibar Coa reserved enough of his filly's energy to hold off Summer Colony's stretch charge.

Gary Stevens replaces John Velazquez aboard Summer Colony, who carries high weight of 120 pounds. He last rode her to the La Canada win over Azeri.

Summer Colony, facing just four rivals, will again be heavily favored in the 1 1/8-mile Molly Pitcher.

Enjoy, the main competition, also has an Azeri connection.

Enjoy ran second to Azeri in her most recent effort, the Grade 1 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap on May 24 at Hollywood Park.

"She's run four good races in a row," said trainer Beau Greely. "We're delighted with her."

The other three Molly Pitcher runners come out of the $65,000 Affirmed Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard: Alchemilla, the winner; She's Got the Beat, runner-up by only a nose, and fourth-place finisher Call an Audible.

The Atelier team of trainer Shug McGaughey and owners Helen C. Alexander and Helen K. Groves bid for a repeat win with Alchemilla. McGaughey has won the Molly Pitcher a record five times.