04/02/2004 12:00AM

Weighing options for star sisters


STICKNEY, Ill. - The standout statebred sisters Summer Mis and Julie's Prize both could make their next start April 10 at Hawthorne in Illinois-bred stakes races.

Or, neither could.

Their trainer, Tony Mitchell, was en route Friday from Aiken, S.C., to Chicago. That is the journey Summer Mis and Julie's Prize both made early in March. Both have started at the meet, Julie's Prize easily winning an open allowance race, Summer Mis finishing third to males in a tough open sprint allowance.

There are $100,000 races for both fillies here April 10, the six-furlong Governor's Lady for Summer Mis, and the 1 1/16-mile Peach of It for Julie's Prize. The thing is, both these horses - bred and owned by Richard Otto - have proven competitive in open stakes races, and the decision Mitchell faces is whether to point for the easier, statebred spots, or head back to open races.

Mitchell said he was concerned Summer Mis would be assigned an extremely high weight in the Governor's Lady. Last fall, she set a stakes record here beating Illinois-bred mares under 127 pounds. Weights were scheduled to be released for the upcoming race Saturday, and if Mitchell feels Summer Mis must carry too much, he will consider entering her Sunday for the Vinery Madison Stakes, to be run Wednesday at Keeneland. Summer Mis won the Grade 3 Thoroughbred Club of America there last fall.

"I know she ran so well with 127 pounds last fall, but it knocked her out," Mitchell said.

The other race for Julie's Prize is the Grade 3, $250,000 Sixty Sails Handicap here at Hawthorne. That race is on April 24, and Mitchell said he would discuss with Otto the option of passing the Peach of It for the Sixty Sails.

These are the sorts of pleasant dilemmas that ought to come up throughout this season.

"They both wintered very well," Mitchell said. "These two did fantastic."

Hanshin on Coach Jimi Lee's agenda

Last December, Coach Jimi Lee set a Hawthorne track record when he won an overnight stakes race in 1:07.27, believed to be the fastest six furlongs ever run in Illinois. Hawthorne's track was exceptionally quick that afternoon, but Coach Jimi Lee validated his form with a strong winter at Gulfstream, capped off by a second to the excellent sprinter Lion Tamer in the Grade 2 Richter Scale.

Coach Jimi Lee has settled in at Hawthorne now, but at this point he is not expected to race here. Friday, his trainer, Jimmy DiVito, said he was targeting the May 29 Hanshin Handicap at Arlington for Coach Jimi Lee's next start.

The Hanshin is run at one mile, and Coach Jimi Lee has excelled at six and seven furlongs, but a mile at Arlington is a one-turn race, and DiVito thinks Coach Jimi Lee will fit the trip.

"I think it's well within his range," DiVito said. "It's more a sprinting race, anyway."

Distance aside, Coach Jimi Lee will be taking a class drop, having faced some of the country's best sprinters in recent starts.

"Those are Grade 1 horses. Those are elite sprinters in my book," DiVito said.

Fast start for apprentice Contreras

Chicago has not been a haven for apprentice riders, but bug riders bear watching at Hawthorne. In fact, through Monday's races, Cruz Contreras, one of the apprentices, topped the jockey standings with 20 wins, one more than the journeyman Eddie Razo.

Contreras began riding in Chicago last season, and had a decent Arlington meet. But after returning home to Mexico early in the fall, he was stuck there for months, working through immigration restrictions tightened because of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Contreras finally made it back to Hawthorne in mid-December, but was injured here on closing day. Instead of going to Turfway Park for the rest of the winter, Contreras rehabbed.

But he was ready for the National Jockey Club meet, and his agent, Tom Morgan, has drummed up steady business for Contreras, whose 119 mounts also top the meet.

Even more recently returned to action here is the apprentice Timothy Thornton, who rode in New York during Aqueduct's inner-track winter meet. There, Thornton won 48 races, tying for sixth in the standings. In only a few days of action, Thornton has ridden 4 winners from 13 mounts.

Thornton is scheduled to lose his apprentice allowance in late July. Because of his winter injury, Contreras applied to extend his allowance beyond early May, when it was set to expire, and his appeal is considered likely to be accepted.

And finally, there is the plight of the apprentice rider Liz Morris, whose luck this spring has mostly been bad. Morris has ridden 80 horses, winning just three times, a record skewed by 17 second-place finishes and 12 thirds.

Flemish Cap pure speed

Trainer Jerry Gryczewski makes no bones about the needs of Flemish Cap, a 6-year-old horse he trains.

"He's one-dimensional. He wants that front-end, and he wants to go - that's his thing," Gryczewski said.

The tactic is working. Flemish Cap has won 5 times in 12 Hawthorne starts, including a victory here March 19 in a second-level allowance race, his first start since Gryczewski and owner Rich Papiese claimed him for $25,000 Feb. 28. He is back Sunday in Hawthorne's featured first race, a third-level allowance race with a $35,000 claiming option.

And once again, Flemish Cap will be tough to catch.

Oza and Booster, both drawn to his outside, have tactical speed, but Flemish Cap probably will be faster into the first turn of this 1 1/16-mile race. And if Flemish Cap makes a clear lead, well, that's his thing.