12/12/2003 12:00AM

'Wind Dancer' seeks breakthrough

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Near misses in stakes have been commonplace for Summer Wind Dancer this year.

A two-time stakes winner in the fall of 2002, Summer Wind Dancer is winless in five starts this year but has been second in three stakes for California-breds.

A breakthrough could come in Sunday's $95,000 Cat's Cradle Handicap at Hollywood Park when Summer Wind Dancer faces eight California-bred fillies and mares.

"My filly shows up every time," trainer Jenine Sahadi said of Summer Wind Dancer. "I can count on her."

Run over 7 1/2 furlongs, the Cat's Cradle is essentially a prep race for two stakes on Jan. 24 - the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Santa Anita and the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream Park.

The distance of the Cat's Cradle leaves Sahadi unsure what to expect. Summer Wind Dancer has won at seven furlongs (the 2002 Cover Gal Stakes) and 1 1/16 miles (California Cup Juvenile Fillies), but she has never tried the odd distance of 7 1/2 furlongs.

Owned by Richard and Yvetta Wira and Linda Vetter, Summer Wind Dancer finished second by a length to Tucked Away in the seven-furlong Fleet Treat Stakes at Del Mar last July.

"I thought the seven-eighths race at Del Mar was good," Sahadi said. "She's adaptable enough that she can be in the hunt if she had to. She has more of a grinding turn of foot than a whopping quarter-mile turn of foot."

Summer Wind Dancer is one of four fillies and mares who will carry 118 pounds. The others are Bold Roberta, Super High, and Valentine Dancer. Tucked Away, who carries 114 pounds, is another contender.

Bold Roberta won two stakes at Fairplex Park and was second in the California Cup Distaff.

Super High won six races and $477,848 in 2002 but has not been better than fourth in four starts this year.

Valentine Dancer may go favored. Trained by Craig Lewis, she won her first stakes in the Ramser Handicap on turf at Santa Anita in October. Most recently she was third in the California Cup Distance Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf, a trip that may have been too far.

Valentine Dancer is a closer who will have company in Tucked Away, who was a troubled seventh in the California Cup Distaff on turf.

"She got a bit far back but finished pretty strong," said Paddy Gallagher, who trains Tucked Away. "She didn't get beat too far. One turn seems like the best for her right now."