05/03/2002 11:00PM

Summer Note's a puzzler

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CICERO, Ill. - Evidently, it did not take long for Summer Note to come around. Unraced since dead-heating in the 2000 Hutcheson Stakes, and having arrived here in trainer Richard Hazelton's barn only a couple weeks ago, Summer Note is set to resume his racing career Monday in Hawthorne's seventh race.

A day after he worked six furlongs in 1:14.60 at Hawthorne on April 27, assistant trainer Mary Rodriguez declared Summer Note, who has been gelded since he last raced, nearly set to start. Summer Note had been working regularly at a training center, where his fitness level had reached a level sufficient for his return to the racetrack.

His connections couldn't have wanted to wait too long.

Summer Note, who suffered bowed tendons in both front legs since the Hutcheson, was nearly ready to make a comeback here a year ago. Closing in on a race, he hurt himself again and needed another lengthy layoff.

Now bettors will be asked to consider whether Summer Note can immediately reprise form that is more than two years old.

Summer Note won his first two starts on the Chicago circuit as a 2-year-old by a combined nine lengths, then moved into trainer Randy Morse's barn and dead-heated with More Than Ready in a very fast edition of the Hutcheson.

It's not reasonable to expect Summer Note to come back with anything close to that performance, but he doesn't need to run that well to win on Monday. A very quick horse, Summer Note could find himself on the lead since his prime pace rival, St. Remy, is likely to scratch.

St. Remy is part of a Mike Reavis-trained entry with Chinkapin, and though Reavis said he would defer to owner Rick Englander's final decision Monday on whether St. Remy would start, he said it's more likely that only Chinkapin will run. Chinkapin, claimed a month ago for $35,000 out of an optional claiming/allowance race, runs back at the same level at which he finished second in his last two starts.

He is a fringe contender, while Lil Charlie Too is the horse to beat, presuming Summer Note will have rust to shake off.

Lil Charlie Too comes off a third-place finish at Sportsman's behind two fast horses, Meandmyloveman and Classic Appeal, and eight of his nine career wins have come over the Hawthorne surface.