08/11/2003 11:00PM

'Bluff' holds aces in allowance

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DEL MAR, Calif. - It took Sophisticatedbluff eight starts to finally win against maidens, but if her improving pattern continues, she should not take nearly as long to clear her first-level allowance condition. In fact, she might do it on Thursday, when she seeks her second straight victory in the featured seventh race at Del Mar, a one-mile race for older fillies and mares that attracted six runners.

The allowance race came up fairly soft for the level, but it is the best race on a rather lackluster card.

Sophisticatedbluff was a four-length winner against maidens going 6 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park on July 12. She is a daughter of Pine Bluff, so she figures to improve with experience. Distance, though, is a question, according to her trainer, Ron Ellis. In Sophisticatedbluff's lone previous try around two turns, she finished third as the 6-5 favorite in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Hollywood Park in May 2002.

"I tried her long one time, and she didn't do that well, so I gave her some time off," Ellis said Tuesday morning. "You would think being by Pine Bluff she should run long, but her dam was kind of a sprinter.

"I hope she's a late developer. Her last two races have been her best races, and I've given her enough time so she won't bounce. I always thought she was okay, but she never really lived up to what I thought she was."

Sophisticatedbluff finished second in four straight races earlier this year before winning her last start. She has finished in the money in seven of eight starts.

Indian Blanket, who drew the rail, will be adding blinkers for her first try around two turns. She won her debut in April at Santa Anita, but has finished fifth in two subsequent starts in sprints at this level.

Bob Baffert, who trains Indian Blanket, said he is adding blinkers because Indian Blanket has had a tendency to break slowly. "She ran really well her first out, then she sort of went backwards on us a little bit," Baffert said Tuesday.

Baffert had considered keeping Indian Blanket around one turn for a race on Friday, but decided to go in this two-turn race in part because if Indian Blanket is successful, there is a restricted stakes race she could run in at the end of the meet that is also around two turns.

Teresa Ann is making her first start since January, and boasts a sharp series of gate drills for her return for trainer Craig Dollase.

Lyncola finished third in a similar spot the first weekend of the meet. She has finished third in her last three starts.