05/13/2003 11:00PM

Summer Colony right on schedule


Summer Colony may have been over the top by the time she reached the Breeders' Cup Distaff last October. Sixteen races in 18 months had to take its toll at some point.

In order to have a fresher mare for the fall of 2003, trainer Mark Hennig has purposely waited to start Summer Colony's 5-year-old campaign, which gets under way Friday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff Handicap.

In last year's Pimlico Distaff, Summer Colony outdueled Dancethruthedawn in a stirring stretch drive to win the race by a head. It was one of four graded stakes wins Summer Colony recorded on the year, a season in which she banked $992,500 for owner-breeder Ed Evans.

Summer Colony began her 2002 campaign with a victory over Azeri and remains the only horse to have beaten Azeri, who was crowned Horse of the Year for 2002. In the Breeders' Cup Distaff, however, Summer Colony was beaten 21 lengths by Azeri.

Following the Distaff, Summer Colony developed a fungal infection in her eye, forcing her to miss some training time. Still, Hennig had always targeted this race for Summer Colony's return.

"We definitely want to focus on the summer races she ran in last year,'' said Hennig, referring to the Molly Pitcher, Delaware Handicap, and Personal Ensign. "She definitely has shown she can stay in peak form for a long period of time.''

Hennig notes that the 1 1/16 miles may be a bit short for Summer Colony, who at 121 pounds is the highweight and breaks from the outside post in a seven-horse field. Hennig also said, "It's not the end of the world'' if she does not win.

Mandy's Gold and Smok'n Frolic are the most likely ones to knock off Summer Colony in her return.

Mandy's Gold, who won the Grade 1 Ruffian last September at Belmont, is coming off a third-place finish behind Azeri and Take Charge Lady in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom. She has fired two bullet works at Delaware Park in the interim and gets the services of Jerry Bailey for the first time.

As of Wednesday, trainer Todd Pletcher still had not decided whether to ship Smok'n Frolic to Maryland or keep her home in New York for Saturday's Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap. Pletcher would prefer the Shuvee, but is afraid that race may come up a paceless affair, thus compromising his filly.

Pletcher has named Edgar Prado to ride Smok'n Frolic in the Pimlico Distaff.

Kiss a Miss, Stormy Frolic, and the Mark Shuman-trained entry of You'll Be Happy and Dance the Slew complete the field.