10/01/2004 12:00AM

Summer Wind Dancer gets her chance

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Summer Wind Dancer, getting a bath Wednesday at Hollywood Park, was unable to make the Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga in August after her plane was delayed in Kentucky for extensive repairs.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Summer Wind Dancer might go on and win Sunday's Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita, and might parlay that into a victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff 27 days later at Lone Star Park. Maybe that would mollify her trainer, Jeff Mullins, who, like a fisherman staring at a broken line, still smarts over the one that got away.

was scheduled to run in the Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga in August. But she, like many a summer traveler, entered airplane hell. The plane she was on needed extensive repairs during a stopover in Kentucky. The delay would have resulted in Summer Wind Dancer getting to Saratoga at the 11th hour. So, Mullins brought her home.

That wasn't the worst of it. Mullins watched the Personal Ensign unfold as he had anticipated. Except that without Summer Wind Dancer in the race, it was Storm Flag Flying who benefited from the wicked early pace and ran down an exhausted Azeri.

"It was one of the worst experiences of my career, especially after watching the race," Mullins said.

Summer Wind Dancer came home and was rested until this weekend. On paper, it looks as though she was purposely given a break since her victory in the Delaware Handicap on July 18. And it might work out for the best, because Summer Wind Dancer hits the fall fresh and will have a prep before heading to the Distaff.

"But I'd have much rather run her at Saratoga and not had to worry about this," Mullins said.

The Personal Ensign would have afforded Summer Wind Dancer her best shot to date at a Grade 1 victory. At 1 1/4 miles, the Personal Ensign would have flattered Summer Wind Dancer's late-running style. The Lady's Secret, a Grade 2 race, is only 1 1/16 miles, and the Grade 1 Distaff is 1 1/8 miles.

"I think she's best anywhere from a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter," Mullins said. "The problem with the Lady's Secret is it's not really shaping up like we thought. But she's fresh."

Summer Wind Dancer spent her aborted weekend at Churchill Downs.

"She had a nice little vacation there," Mullins said, ruefully. "It kept her off the Del Mar racetrack, anyway. She jogged a little, but didn't do too much. Then she came home - free of charge. She came back good and resumed training. I was looking at a Cal-bred race at Del Mar on the grass, but by the end of the meet the turf was chewed up and I didn't want to waste a race. She's been on a pretty steady schedule since then."

Summer Wind Dancer, a 4-year-old gray daughter of Siberian Summer, has rebounded this year. While trained by Jenine Sahadi, she had an excellent 2-year-old campaign, during which she won the California Cup Juvenile Fillies, but she was 0 for 6 last year. This year, she has finished first or second in four of her five starts. Summer Wind Dancer owns consecutive stakes victories, having captured Hollywood Park's Hawthorne Handicap in June. Both the Delaware Handicap and Hawthorne wins came after owners Richard and Yvette Wira and Linda Vetter - who also bred Summer Wind Dancer with Deborah Penny - transferred the filly to Mullins.

"When we got her, she had an air about her, like she was something special," Mullins said. "She was one of those who wanted to be the best. She had the attitude of, 'I'll do what I want to do.' Once we got her over that part, she was like, 'Okay, I'll do it your way.' We put her in company and put blinkers on her when she works. If you work her alone and without blinkers, she'll go six furlongs in 1:18."

Victor Espinoza, who rides Summer Wind Dancer aggressively, has been "one of the keys," Mullins said.

"He has a real strong left hand. When he asks her to go, she gives it to him," Mullins said. "You've got to ride her. You've got to let her know you mean business."