Updated on 09/15/2011 1:39PM

Summer Colony wins Ladies the hard way

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JAMAICA, N.Y. - Summer Colony had already demonstrated the ability to win easy. In Saturday's $111,100 Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct, she showed she could win the hard way too.

Seemingly on her way to another easy score in her stakes debut, Summer Colony began to pull herself up in midstretch and had to fight off a late challenge from the hard-charging Stop for Schnapps to win the Grade 3 Ladies by a neck. Strolling Belle, the two-time defending Ladies champion, finished another 4 3/4 lengths back in third.

It was the fifth consecutive victory for Summer Colony, who had won her four previous starts by a combined 53 3/4 lengths.

With Irving's Baby breaking slowly, Summer Colony, under John Velazquez, was able to make an easy lead and set pedestrian fractions of 26.24 seconds, 51.37, 1:15.82 and 1:40.79 while maintaining a 1 1/2-length lead over Strolling Belle. Summer Colony was two lengths clear in midstretch when Velazquez said she lost focus when she saw the starting gate out of the corner of her eye.

Stop for Schnapps, under Lorenzo Lezcano, was in the midst of her run and was cutting into Summer Colony's lead when Velazquez took his filly off the rail to let her feel that filly coming. When she did, Summer Colony dug down and held off Stop for Schnapps. She covered the 1 1/4 miles over a fast track in 2:05.80 and returned $4.50 as the even-money choice.

"I thought I was going to win easy," said Velazquez, who captured his 26th stakes win in New York, one less than Jerry Bailey. "Then she started to pull up. I pulled her out and when she felt that other horse coming she went on again."

The victory was one of three on the day for Velazquez, who finished the year as the New York's leading rider with 239 winners, 46 more than Edgar Prado.

It was the 21st stakes win of the year for trainer Mark Hennig, 13th with a 3-year-old filly.

"She's still learning, she's apt to be a much better horse as a 4-year-old," said Hennig, who trains Summer Colony for owner/breeder Edward Evans.

Hennig said Summer Colony would get a winter freshening in Florida and that he had no immediate plans. Races that Hennig could consider are the La Canada at Santa Anita on Feb. 9, the Rampart at Gulfstream Park on March 2 or the Next Move at Aqueduct on March 29.

for the Ladies Handicap chart.*

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