03/08/2007 1:00AM

Summer Doldrums can bounce and win


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - At a time of year when most trainers want to see their Kentucky Derby hopefuls take a step forward, trainer Rick Violette wants to see his 3-year-old Summer Doldrums stay in neutral.

Coming off a career-best performance winning last month's Whirlaway Stakes - in which he earned extremely fast speed figures - Summer Doldrums is likely to regress, or bounce, in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Violette just hopes Summer Doldrums can bounce and still win.

"I don't want to see another top like that," said Violette, referring to Summer Doldrums's 106 Beyer Speed Figure and 2o3/4 Ragozin sheet number earned in the Whirlaway. "You can literally run too fast too early in the year and have nothing left for the major races. You'd like to see him have if not an A performance, a B-plus performance that's good enough to win the race."

Summer Doldrums could very well bounce and still win the Gotham, which, like the Whirlaway, is contested at 1 1/16 miles over Aqueduct's inner track. Though he will face eight rivals in the Gotham, only Wollaston Bay is a stakes winner.

In two starts over the inner track, Summer Doldrums has demonstrated the ability to come from off the pace or win on the lead. He took advantage of an inside-speed-biased track to win the Whirlaway on Feb. 10 after coming from off the pace to win a first-level allowance by 8 1/2 lengths on Jan. 12.

"He's a horse that you can kind of use to get to a spot and let your foot off the gas a little bit, and [he] goes into neutral and is ready to pounce when you ask him again," Violette said.

Cowtown Cat may be the most dangerous opponent Summer Doldrums has in the Gotham. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Cowtown Cat beat Summer Doldrums by 4 1/2 lengths in a maiden race at Belmont last September. Cowtown Cat is coming off a seven-length defeat when third to Adore the Gold in the Grade 2 Swale, run at 6 1/2 furlongs.

"It was kind of obvious to watch him finish that it looked like they outfooted him a little bit, and that he wants to run further," Pletcher said. "We'll give him that opportunity and see."

In with an upset chance are Sir Whimsey, runner-up in the Whirlaway; How Sweet He Is, a winner of two straight over the inner track; and Wafi, a sprint allowance winner last out.