02/06/2002 1:00AM

Summer Colony in town for La Canada


ARCADIA, Calif. - A five-race winning streak in New York last year has led Summer Colony to California for Saturday's $200,000 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita.

Since August, when she won a maiden race at Saratoga by an astonishing 32 3/4 lengths, Summer Colony has developed into a potential star for owner-breeder Edward Evans and trainer Mark Hennig.

So far, the highlight has been a win in the Grade 3 Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct on Dec. 22, but a win in the La Canada against a strong field would be a greater accomplishment.

"I guess we felt it was time to tackle something a little harder," Hennig said by phone on Wednesday from south Florida. "She's passed every test so far."

Summer Colony will face new competition and different tactics in the Grade 2 La Canada, run for 4-year-old fillies over 1 1/8 miles. Unlike in her New York races, she is doubtful to make the lead, facing fillies with more speed. In addition, the La Canada will have a strong field, including Affluent and Royally Chosen, the first two finishers of the El Encino Stakes on Jan. 20. Other probables include Azeri and Ask Me No Secrets, both of whom are making their stakes debut.

"These Grade 2's for 4-year-olds don't come up too often," Hennig said, explaining the decision to ship across the country.

Summer Colony arrived from Florida on Wednesday. She will have a couple of days to acclimate to the Santa Anita track, an important point for Hennig. Jockeys John Velazquez and Jerry Bailey have told Hennig that Summer Colony has a tendency to look around when she makes the lead.

"In that last race, she got to looking around pretty good when they turned for home," Hennig said. "The gate was parked on the outside at the eighth pole and Johnny said he had to shake her to get her attention back on the race."

The same situation may not occur on Saturday. With Ask Me No Secrets and Royally Chosen expected to lead, Summer Colony should be in a stalking role and focused on the fillies in front of her. She won an allowance race from a similar position on Nov. 23 at Aqueduct.

"She was content when she settled off of it," Hennig said. "The main thing is she has plenty of tactical speed. She'll be right up there. Her biggest asset is that she can carry that speed over a long distance.

"She's been real good since her last race. The track here at Gulfstream has been heavy, and we've gotten since useful works in her. She was handling it better than a lot of ours. She's still improving a lot."

Astra 'ready to run'

Astra, the winner of the Beverly Hills Handicap last June, is nearing her first start in six months, trainer Laura de Seroux said. She was ninth in the Beverly D. Stakes last August at Arlington Park.

The 6-year-old Astra is being pointed to the $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap over a mile on turf on Feb. 18.

"She's ready to run," de Seroux said. "I wish it were tomorrow."

De Seroux said that Startac, the winner of the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes last August, recently underwent laser surgery to treat a throat ulcer. She said it explains his two poor performances in the fall - a sixth in the Oak Tree Derby and a ninth in the Hollywood Derby.

"It took us awhile to find it," she said.

De Seroux said Startac may return next month in an unspecified race.

Bella Bella Bella gets in work

*, who will make her first start in a Grade 1 in Sunday's Las Virgenes Stakes, worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 on Wednesday. Trained by Jenine Sahadi, Bella Bella Bella won the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes on Jan. 6 to remain undefeated in three starts.

Her competition in Sunday's $200,000 Las Virgenes includes Habibti, You, and Tali'sluckbusride, the first three finishers of the Hollywood Starlet Stakes on Dec. 16; Rich Musique, who was fourth in the Santa Ynez Stakes on Jan. 21; and Spring Meadow, a recent maiden winner.

The one-mile Las Virgenes is a major prep to the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on March 9.

First things first for Jack's Silver

Jack's Silver, who finished second to Came Home in the San Vicente Stakes last Saturday, is on the trail for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6, but may take a detour along the way.

On Wednesday, trainer Jim Cassidy said that Jack's Silver emerged from the race in good shape, but would like to see the California-bred colt win a maiden race before he tries the San Felipe Stakes on March 17. Jack's Silver has yet to win in four starts.

"I may take him up north to get that out of the way," Cassidy said. "If it all goes to plan, I'll run in the San Felipe Stakes."

Last year, Jack's Silver's half-brother, Jamaican Rum, finished third in the San Felipe Stakes. Both Jack's Silver and Jamaican Rum are owned by John Elardi's Southern Nevada Racing Stables.

Jamaican Rum is currently recovering from a tendon injury suffered in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park last August.

Cassidy said Jamaican Rum is at Elardi's ranch in Bradbury, Calif., and has a questionable future as a racehorse because of the severity of the injury.

"I want to give it a year and then look at it," Cassidy said.


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