09/17/2003 12:00AM

Summer Mis trying to keep up with little sis

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Julie's Prize finished a strong third here last weekend in the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes. The ball is back in Summer Mis's court.

Summer Mis starts for the first time since July 26 when she runs Friday in Arlington's featured eighth race, a high-end allowance that drew a good field of nine entrants.

Summer Mis is 4, Julie's Prize 3, and both fillies are daughters of Julie Mis, who is emerging as a strong broodmare. Richard Otto bred and owns Summer Mis and Julie's Prize, Tony Mitchell trains them, and the two have lobbed strong races back and forth this year.

After Julie's Prize's closing third in the Pucker Up, it is Summer Mis's turn to step up, and she is in the right spot to do so. Summer Mis races at seven furlongs, and extended one-turn races at Arlington always have been her forte.

"There's a one-mile grass stakes [Saturday], but seven-eighths hits her between the eyes," Mitchell said. "We need another race for her, and we'll go from there."

When Mitchell speaks of going, he has big ideas. He said Summer Mis would be nominated to the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland and could take a shot in that sort of race with a good showing Friday. As for the task at hand, Summer Mis always has run well fresh, and with seven weeks between starts and a strong workout pattern the last several weeks, she should be at her best.

"She's been feeling fantastic. She's really doing good right now," Mitchell said.

Summer Mis should find plenty of opposition, and much of it could come from For Rubies, who won the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap by three lengths the last time she raced at Arlington. But For Rubies has lost three straight since then, and she was solidly beaten less than two weeks ago in the $75,000 Weekend Delight at Turfway Park.

Hawthorne meet opens with a bang

There is no soft opening to the fall-winter meet at Hawthorne Race Course. Opening day is Sunday, Sept. 28, and by that evening the meet's biggest race will be over. That would be the Hawthorne Gold Cup, which has gotten a significant purse boost up to $750,000 this season and could serve as a prep race for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Gold Cup nominations were due to close Wednesday evening, but Hawthorne racing officials had no firm idea of the field's composition. They think that Perfect Drift and Tenpins are likely to start in the Gold Cup, which would form a solid core for the race.

Perfect Drift is coming off an easy win last weekend over Congaree in the Kentucky Cup Classic, while Tenpins won the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows and the Iselin Handicap at Monmouth in his only starts this year.

Hawthorne has made overtures to the connections of East Coast-based horses such as Funny Cide, Volponi, Evening Attire, and Toccet, but racing secretary Gary Duch said it's unlikely any of those horses will come to Chicago.

"We're getting a lot of competition from the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Meadowlands Cup," Duch said.

Block's sprinter-milers work out

Trainer Chris Block put his pair of stakes-class sprinter-milers through timed workouts here Tuesday, with Apt to Be going a half-mile in 48 seconds and Cashel Castle working five furlongs in 1:00.60, one of the three fastest works of the morning.

Block said he plans to start Cashel Castle in the Zany Tactics, the co-feature on Hawthorne's opening-day program. Plans are more fluid for Apt to Be, who hasn't raced since he won the Grade 3 Hanshin Handicap on June 29. Apt to Be nursed a quarter crack over the summer, and Block's aim was to keep him fit and point for a fall campaign.

"He does like Churchill, so we could look down there for races," Block said.

Cashel Castle's career nearly came to an end because of a tendon injury, but he made it back to the races Aug. 23, finishing fourth in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint. "I think he's actually better," Block said. "He seems to be tighter now. He looks racier than he did the last time he ran."

Martinez missing in action

Jockey Seth Martinez, who was supposed to begin riding here last weekend and had planned to ride the Hawthorne meet this fall, has left Chicago. Martinez was off Aran Narayan, his lone mount on Wednesday's card, and Jay Fedor, who was to have served as Martinez's agent here, said he had lost touch with the rider. Fedor said Martinez was battling his weight, and the agent did not know what Martinez's plans were.

* Bien Nicole, second in the Beverly D. here in her last start, worked six furlongs on grass in 1:14 Wednesday. She is expected to make her next start in the WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland.