09/14/2004 11:00PM

Synco Peach backs into role of favorite


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Percy Scherbenske's voice changed audibly with the news.

"Summer Mis isn't in there?" Scherbenske said Wednesday afternoon, edging toward something like elation.

No, Summer Mis was not entered in the $40,000 Unique Type, featured on Friday's nine-race Arlington program. And absent her - the reigning queen of Illinois-bred females - the Scherbenske-trained Synco Peach becomes the horse to beat in the Unique Type, a one-mile dirt race for statebred fillies and mares.

Though Summer Mis was held out, probably waiting for a graded stakes sprint sometime next month, her trainer, Tony Mitchell, entered two other fillies, Indian Jewel and Natural Image. Completing the lineup are Cashmere Miss, Expendable, Fighting Fever, and Gracility.

Scherbenske has , the property of Lamont Lienast, in the right spot, provided she can transfer her form from sprints to a middle-distance race. Arlington's one-turn mile configuration will help, and Scherbenske points out that in a seven-furlong victory here Aug. 5, Synco Peach was edging away at the finish.

"That was one of the best races of her career," Scherbenske said. "I like my filly's chances."

Synco Peach made one start at a mile, in June of 2003, and was beaten 24 lengths. But that was the day she sustained an injury that took her out of action the rest of the season, and the failure is entirely excusable.

Synco Peach returned from the long layoff in March, and won three straight starts at Hawthorne. She was badly beaten as the favorite here in Isaac Murphy in late June, but lost all chance at the start of that race.

"She fell on her head that day," said Scherbenske. "[Jockey] Rene Douglas said he was lucky to stay on."

Synco Peach comes out of two open races, and looks fairly solid in the Unique Type. Those wishing to dig slightly deeper might come up with Fighting Fever, who looked good winning an open $50,000 claimer here July 21 and might not have cared for a sloppy track or two turns when she was fourth three weeks ago in a $35,000 Fairmount Park stakes race.

Natural Image won a second-level statebred allowance race here Aug. 11, her first victory in an abbreviated season. Scherbenske has no reason to fear her the way he does Summer Mis, but Natural Image appears to be improving, and should offer fair odds.