05/24/2006 11:00PM

Summerly getting back to work


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Summerly, the 2005 Kentucky Oaks winner who has not raced in 10 months, probably will have her first work since April 24 in a breeze Monday or Tuesday at Churchill Downs, said trainer Steve Asmussen.

Asmussen and the filly's owner, Ron Winchell, have been hoping to get a 4-year-old campaign under way for Summerly, with the year-end goal being the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill. After recuperating from a splint injury suffered during her training for the Alabama Stakes last August at Saratoga, Summerly was sent back to Asmussen in early February at the Palm Meadows training center in south Florida.

Her first official workout came in late March at Palm Meadows, after which she reeled off four straight drills at Churchill, concluding with a bullet five-furlong breeze on April 24. But that was her last work, and Asmussen, reluctant to specify an illness or injury, said Thursday that he simply "backed off her a little. She'll probably work early next week." As for a targeted return race, "we don't have one," he said.

Summerly won 4 of 7 starts last year, with her year ending prematurely following a second-place finish behind Smuggler in the July 23 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park. She was one of the three Eclipse Award finalists in the 3-year-old filly division last year. Smuggler was voted an easy winner over Summerly and Round Pond.

Asmussen said last month that because Summerly has shown such a noticeable fondness for the Churchill racing strip, as evidenced by her Oaks win last May, that the Breeders' Cup being held this year at Churchill "is the only reason" the filly was kept in training as a 4-year-old.

Foster Day may be a special one

Many people at Churchill already are looking forward to the highlight of the post-Kentucky Derby segment of the Churchill spring meet: Stephen Foster Super Saturday, which is set for June 17.

Besides six stakes, capped by the Grade 1 Foster Handicap, the afternoon also typically provides a forum for nostalgia, with one notable carryover from the now-defunct Kentucky Derby Alumni festivities being the presentation of engraved Derby trophies to the winning connections from that year's Derby.

This year, that means owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson and trainer Michael Matz will be invited to return to Churchill to accept their trophies for Barbaro's victory in the 132nd Derby. Clearly, with Barbaro having had his career ended by a life-threatening injury last Saturday in the Preakness, such a presentation could really tug at the heart.

"We haven't issued the invitations just yet, but obviously it's not difficult to imagine the kind of emotion that having the Barbaro folks back here for Foster Day could evoke," said Churchill vice president John Asher.

Perfect timing for Wundelia

When Wundelia got up to win the third race here Wednesday by the barest of margins, even the mare's trainer, Chuck Simon, found the result hard to believe.

"That might have been the luckiest head-bob in the history of the republic," said Simon.

Indeed, Wundelia appeared hopelessly beaten by favored Hayden Valley in the shadow of the wire. Although Wundelia, ridden by Julien Leparoux, was gaining steadily on her, Hayden Valley, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, still appeared to hold her rival safe as the top pair ran under the wire.

But a slow-motion replay revealed that Wundelia lunged at the absolute perfect moment, allowing her to win by a whisker.

"We were behind before the wire and after the wire," said Simon. "The only millisecond we were ahead was right on the wire. Unbelievable."

Wundelia, a Chilean-bred 5-year-old, returned $11.20 in her first victory from four North American starts.