06/11/2003 11:00PM

Summer Note starts up. Again.


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Summer Note has made nearly as many comebacks as starts, and 11 months after he last raced Summer Note is on his way back again.

Summer Note breezed for the first time this year, going an easy three furlongs here Tuesday morning. Summer Note still is quite a ways from a race, but for a horse whose career has sputtered so many times, just breezing is a significant step.

"So far, so good," said trainer Richard Hazelton. "He was down in Florida training for about 70 days before he came up here."

Summer Note, owned by Greg Bensinger, made the races four winters ago, winning two races in Chicago and then beating More Than Ready in the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream. Then he was gone for a year and a half. Hazelton did most of the work getting Summer Note ready to run again last spring, but the horse went to Barclay Tagg in New York, where he won a six-furlong allowance race at Belmont in 1:08.80 before finishing fifth and third - tough luck both times - in graded stakes.

Summer Note's main problem is physical, but a roguish personality doesn't make things any easier with him.

"He's had chronic tendons," Hazelton said, "plus there's his disposition. He's mellowed out a little, but he's still a mean old son of a [gun]."

Hazelton, a master horseman, will take things slowly with Summer Note. If his training stays on course, Summer Note could be ready to race sometime in mid-summer, Hazelton said.

Rock Slide overshadowed by brother

More and more, Rock Slide is racing in the long shadow cast by his baby brother. Rock Slide and Mineshaft are full brothers, and while Mineshaft, perhaps the best handicap horse in the country, starts Saturday as the favorite in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, Rock Slide will be at Arlington for the ungraded Sea o'Erin Breeders' Cup.

Based on a turf allowance win April 26 at Churchill, Rock Slide will be a contender in the Sea o'Erin, a one-mile turf race, but the start has the further purpose of setting up Rock Slide for a start in the Firecracker Handicap next month at Churchill Downs.

"We'd like for him to get to that race if he can," said trainer Neil Howard.

Howard had hoped to accomplish that in another Churchill allowance race, but his spot failed to fill, sending Rock Slide on the road. Robby Albarado, Mineshaft's rider, will make his first Arlington appearance of the meet to ride Rock Slide.

The others entered Thursday in the $150,000 Sea o'Erin were Al's Dearly Bred, Attack the Books, Captain Nicholas, Holy Conflict, Man O'Rhythm, Miesque's Approval, and Package Store. Attack the Books is cross-entered in a Saturday allowance race here.

Miesque's Approval Rock Slide and Al's Dearly Bred, winner of the local prep for the Sea o'Erin, figure to be the favorites.

Sore Douglas takes day off

Jockey Rene Douglas sustained only minor injuries in a spill during Wednesday's ninth race, but was off his mounts here Thursday. Douglas's mount, Andy's Jet, stumbled badly as he left the gate, unseating Douglas and throwing him to the ground. As Andy's Jet struggled to gain his feet, he struck Douglas who lay motionless on the racetrack for several minutes before being hauled into an ambulance on a stretcher.

Thursday morning, Douglas's agent, Dennis Cooper, said Douglas was "kind of sore all over" from the mishap and would miss his riding assignments. Cooper expected Douglas to ride again Friday.

Andy's Jet, meanwhile, ran loose for at least 10 minutes before finally being caught by one of the track's outriders.

In all, it was a fitting end to an eventful day's racing that saw disqualifications in the last two races. Horses ran like bumper cars in deep stretch of the featured eighth race, as the winner, Yalta - Douglas up - drifted in slightly as a tiring Cozy came out sharply yards before the wire. Honorville checked and Blue Melody Blue was knocked off stride, and when the dust settled Cozy and jockey Earlie Fires were held accountable and disqualified from second to fourth.

Yalta's win gave Douglas three on the card, as he stretched his lead in the jockey standings to 32-25 over Curt Bourque. Bourque's pace has slowed as his main benefactor, the meet leading owner Frank Calabrese, has lost 10 straight races. A blip on the radar for most, the downturn caused Calabrese to split this week with Steve Leving, his highly accomplished stable manager.