07/22/2004 11:00PM

Summer Mis taking shot at big girls


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Really, it is a summer to die for. A couple weeks in the country, living serenely on a farm with daily swims. And then a trip to the Spa, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to cavort with Thoroughbred glamor.

For Summer Mis, it's all part of the job - a job that is going to become considerably more difficult early next month. On Aug. 6, Summer Mis is expected to run in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Stakes at Saratoga.

She earned the chance July 4 by winning the Saylorville Stakes at Prairie Meadows by a half-length. Summer Mis ran six furlongs in 1:08.80 and was given a Beyer Speed Figure of 100, the highest of her career, and this on the heels of a disappointing sixth in an overnight stakes race May 15 at Arlington.

Summer Mis had an excuse for her declining form: a benign growth in her reproductive tract that was brought under control through oral medication. She ran like a healed horse in Iowa, and Summer Mis, fresh off a two-week stay at a farm, appeared bright and healthy this week in trainer Tony Mitchell's Arlington barn. At the farm, she spends time turned out in pasture while maintaining fitness through a swimming regimen.

"She needs that little break," Mitchell said. "It does her a world of good."

Summer Mis, one of the best Illinois-breds of recent years (her pedigree, by Summer Squall out of a Miswaki mare, is more Kentucky than Illinois), will be retired at the end of this season, and Mitchell feels there's no reason not to give her a look right now with the some of the best female sprinters around.

"We'll take our shot," he said.

Sea of Tranquility still going strong

Wednesday afternoon, Sea of Tranquility looked little like an 8-year-old horse who had made 71 starts in a long career. Racing from the back of the pack in a high-end, one-mile allowance race, he looped the rest of the field five wide on the far turn and wore down the graded stakes winner Apt to Be, winning by three-quarters of a length. It was Sea of Tranquility's second straight victory, and the 23rd of an overwhelmingly successful career.

"How'd you like that one?" said a proud trainer Richard Paulus. "The old man got another win under his belt."

Sea of Tranquility, Paulus said, is not a horse for hot weather, but sticky conditions Wednesday had no adverse affect on him either during or after the race, and by Friday, the hot spell here had broken.

"I was surprised at how well he came out of it," Paulus said.

There is another spot for Sea of Tranquility on Aug. 14, Arlington Million Day, and Paulus will point the horse to that one-mile overnight handicap. A rematch with Apt to Be, who ran well in defeat, would be worth seeing.

Purse increases attract bigger fields

Arlington's Summer Festival began this past Wednesday and runs through Sept. 6, bringing with it across-the-board purse increases. Maiden races, worth $26,000 before, now offer a $30,000 pot. Allowance race purses are worth between $3,000 and $5,000 more, while overnight stakes and handicaps get a $5,000 to $7,000 increase. Claiming race purses have been raised on a scale correlated to claiming price.

So it should come as no surprise that a total of 92 horses were entered on Sunday's nine-race cared - more than 10 per race for those not inclined to do the math. And the featured eighth swelled to startling proportions, with 11 horses entered. That is a tremendous number for a third-level allowance, though four horses were entered for the $62,500 claiming option.

The race, which will be contested at six furlongs, has much to do with claimers. Explosive Count comes off a blowout win in a $20,000 claimer at Lone Star, an effort that earned him a 105 Beyer. The figure is suspect, since Explosive Count had never approached it before, but his trainer, Bret Calhoun, who claimed the horse for Carl Moore Management out of the victory, broke his Arlington losing spell Thursday.

Somethingdangerous was a sharp $45,000 claiming winner in his last start, while Halo's Tiger won for this $62,500 tag in a race here July 2. And then there is Sterling Gold, who in April for the first time dipped into the claiming ranks and was claimed both times he started for a tag. The most recent purchase was for $50,000, out of a Churchill Downs win in early May, and new trainer Bernie Flint is protecting his investment. Flint ran Sterling Gold in an optional claimer July 3 at Churchill, and the horse started under allowance conditions, finishing third in a fast race. Sunday, Flint again eschews the claiming option, a positive vibe for Sterling Gold, who attracts leading rider Rene Douglas.

Sterling Gold has always been a "tweener," a horse suited neither to two-turn routes nor traditional sprints, but he has won before at six furlongs, and should have pace at which to run on Sunday.

Perfect Drift is coming

The field for next Saturday's $350,000 Washington Park Handicap is far from firm, but two strong horses from Kentucky, Perfect Drift and Colonial Colony, are expected to run. Perfect Drift impressively won the 2003 Washington Park, but is winless this season. Colonial Colony, a shocking winner of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster in June, was a creditable fourth in the July 3 Brooklyn Handicap.

Several other horses are possible starters, but one not running is Yessirgeneralsir, fourth in the July 10 Hollywood Gold Cup. Yessirgeneralsir would have been considered for the race, trainer Dallas Keen said, but the horse's return to his Texas base from Southern California was delayed, and Yessirgeneralsir only arrived home Thursday.

"We're looking for cooler weather, and I like Arlington, but it'd probably be a little too much for him," Keen said.

Yessirgeneralsir could wind up in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga, Keen said.