07/17/2004 11:00PM

Summer Wind Dancer takes Delaware Handicap

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Summer Wind Dancer (#9) surges past Roar Emotion to capture the Grade 2, $750,000 Delaware Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths under Victor Espinoza at Delaware Park on Sunday.

STANTON, Del. - Trainer Jeff Mullins had a bad feeling when he arrived at Delaware Park on Sunday and saw a sloppy track that had been sealed the night before in anticipation of heavy rains. He felt even worse when his filly, even-money favorite Summer Wind Dancer, got away awkwardly in the .

Neither the goo that favored speed most of the afternoon nor a slow beginning could stop Summer Wind Dancer, however. Forced to chase uncontested early leader Roar Emotion from far back, Summer Wind Dancer ($4) erased a four-length deficit in the final furlong to win the Grade 2, $750,900 stakes by 1 1/4 lengths.

Roar Emotion, who looked home free under Jerry Bailey entering the stretch of the 1 1/4-mile Del Cap, had to settle for second, 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Misty Sixes. The winner ran the 10 furlongs in the slop in 2:03.63.

"I tried to steal it turning for home," Bailey said. "Actually, on the middle of the turn I opened up. She just ran me down."

Victor Espinoza, who flew in from Southern California to ride Summer Wind Dancer, admitted he thought the race was lost when his mount had her head turned when the starting gate opened, then found herself 6 1/2 lengths behind after the first six furlongs.

"I thought I'd run second," Espinoza said. "But with this horse you have to keep riding all the way. At the five-eighths pole, she wanted to go. In the last eighth, I could see the horse ahead of me was struggling and then I'd knew I'd get it."

Mullins said he was worried because Summer Wind Dancer, who has now won two stakes in a row after losing nine straight races, had never before run on an off track.

"The way this track usually plays, I thought the speed might back up to us, but with all this rain, they sealed the track," Mullins said. "We all know with a sealed track, speed gets dominant."

Mullins said was uncertain where or when Summer Wind Dancer will run next.

"With me, there are no options to think about. I'll let her catch her breath and let her tell me when she's ready to race again."

Pollard's Vision along in time

Pollard's Vision, the even-money favorite in a field of seven 3-year-olds, ran down loose-on-the-lead longshot Britt's Jules to earn the second stakes victory of his career in the Grade 3, $250,000 .

Ridden by Bailey for the first time, Pollard's Vision ($4) had the most impressive credentials in the field with a win in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby and a runner-up finish in last month's Grade 2 Ohio Derby.

Britt's Jules, a 13-1 shot making his first start out of state after winning 6 of 13 in Louisiana, coasted on an uncontested lead until he was challenged, first by Pies Prospect, and then Pollard's Vision entering the final turn. Pollard's Vision moved between horses passed Britt's Jules at the 70-yard pole, and was drawing away by 2 lengths at the finish. Britt's Jules held off Pies Prospect for second by a half-length.

* Niclie ($5.40), a 4-year-old filly claimed for $25,000 six weeks ago, won her third straight start for new trainer Howard Wolfendale when she defeated the only two opponents remaining following three scratches in the $100,000 Light Hearted Handicap.

* Six-year-old Chopper Won ($6.80), racing on dirt for the first time after 11 career starts on grass, won the $50,000 Cape Henlopen, a 1 1/2-mile race reduced to three starters when it was taken off the turf.