08/24/2011 2:03PM

Del Mar: Blinkers back on First Settler for CTT and TOC Handicap

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DEL MAR, Calif. – The $85,000 CTT and TOC Handicap at Del Mar on Friday has been a late summer goal for First Settler since she finished fourth in the Grade 2 Sunset Handicap against males at Hollywood Park last month.

The California Thoroughbred Trainers and Thoroughbred Owners of California Handicap is run over 1 3/8 miles on turf, and is essentially the only chance that owner Chuck Winner and trainer Neil Drysdale have during the Del Mar meeting to showcase First Settler in a race that best suits her style.

“She just needs the distance,” Drysdale said.

A 4-year-old filly by War Chant, First Settler has won 3 of 11 starts and $107,106. Earlier this year, at Santa Anita, she won consecutive allowance races over 1 1/8 miles on turf and then followed with a fifth in the Redondo Beach Stakes over a mile on turf at Hollywood Park in June.

In the Sunset over 1 1-2 miles, First Settler broke slowly and closed from last in a field of seven to finish 4 1-4 lengths behind race winner Imponente Purse.

For the CTT and TOC Handicap, First Settler will wear blinkers for the first time since last December. Drysdale said the equipment is designed to keep her closer to the pace in a race that lacks a confirmed front-runner.

“That’s why we’re doing it,” he said. “There’s not much speed in the race, but we’ll worry about that Friday.”

First Settler has been effective near the front in past starts. In a win at Santa Anita in February, she stalked the pace before winning by a half-length.

First Settler is part of a field of nine in the CTT and TOC Handicap.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer starts Lilly Fa Pootz, who adds blinkers following a sixth in the Osunitas Handicap here on July 23. Friday’s race is the second U.S. start for Middle Club, who was group stakes-placed in distance races in England last year.

The distance will certainly suit Mutually Benefit, a 4-year-old filly trained by Tom Proctor who has won two of her last three starts. She has not raced since winning an optional claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on June 30, a layoff that concerns Proctor.

“A longer distance will help her,” he said. “I think this is a good spot. I’d like to have gotten another race into her.”