08/09/2011 1:31PM

Del Mar: Linda Lou fast and consistent


DEL MAR, Calif. –Linda Lou is a 6-year-old mare who has made just 12 starts in a career that began way back in March 2008. The interruptions have been frequent, and overshadow a somewhat promising race record. Linda Lou has won twice and finished second or third seven times, which is why she commands attention in an optional claimer over five furlongs on turf at Del Mar on Thursday.

The optional claimer, which carries a purse of $70,000, will be Linda Lou’s first start since a third-place finish in an optional claimer on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita in March.

“She’s been in and out all her life, nothing serious, just little things,” trainer Richard Mandella said.

The recent layoff does not concern Mandella as much as the abbreviated distance. “She’s training really good and she usually runs a good race,” he said. “I wish it was a little further. She’s pretty fast. It might be just right.”

Owned by breeder Gerald Ford’s Diamond A Racing, Linda Lou is winless in her last four starts, dating back to an allowance race over a mile on turf here in August 2009. She made one more start that year, and missed all of 2010. At Santa Anita earlier this year, she was second in an optional claimer, fourth in the Clocker’s Corner Handicap and third on March 31, all on the hillside turf course.

Linda Lou ran near the front in those races, a style that Mandella expects to see on Thursday. “I think [staying] close is going to be popular in that race,” he said. “There’s a lot of them like that.”

The optional claimer drew a field of seven, including California Nectar, the winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita in January, and West Ruler, the winner of an allowance race over six furlongs on turf at Hollywood Park last month. Those fillies have the ability to race on or near the lead.

California Nectar, 3, is facing older fillies and mares for the first time, and making her debut in a turf sprint. Trained by Doug O’Neill, California Nectar has not started since finishing fifth in the Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita in March.

The only entrant with success at the distance is Salty Sarah, who won an optional claimer over five furlongs on turf at Hollywood Park last December.