04/02/2002 12:00AM

If history repeats itself, Miss Linda will fire fresh

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Miss Linda will be making her first start in two months in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park, but the timing of the race could not be better, said trainer John Kimmel.

was razor sharp in her return from a more than two-month break last out, when she won the Grade 3, $100,000 Sabin Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 8 by 4 1/4 lengths over Grade 1 winner Forest Secrets. For her effort, Miss Linda earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, one point lower than the career-best 109 she earned for her win in the Grade 1 Spinster last October at Keeneland.

"I thought it was a great race," Kimmel said of the Sabin. "She beat Forest Secrets pretty comfortably, and it was a good barometer on how she runs fresh."

Regular rider Richard Migliore has the mount in the Apple Blossom. Miss Linda is co-highweighted at 118 pounds with probable starter Affluent for the 1 1/16-mile race, which has a projected field of six fillies and mares completed by Azeri, Fleet Renee, Spain, and Verruma.

Miss Linda, an Argentine-bred who races for Ackerley Brothers Farms, has won 7 of 13 career starts and $614,107. She was to be flown to Oaklawn from her Payson Park base near Miami on Wednesday.

The Apple Blossom will share a program with the Grade 1, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap for the first time this year, and will go as the 11th race on a 12-race card. The Oaklawn Handicap is scheduled as the eighth race, and is the first half of a daily double that is completed by the Apple Blossom.

Mott bids for third Oaklawn Handicap

This Fleet Is Due will attempt to give trainer Bill Mott his third win in the Oaklawn Handicap. The trainer won the race in 1995 with Cigar, and in 1996 with Geri.

This Fleet Is Due joined the lineup for the 1 1/8-mile race Tuesday, bringing the projected field to nine. Mr Ross is the starting highweight at 118 pounds, and is expected to be joined in the starting gate by Kudos, Crafty Shaw, Graeme Hall, Dollar Bill, Bowman's Band, Remington Rock, and Secret Romeo.

This Fleet Is Due, a 4-year-old who races for Stonerside Stable, will be looking for his first stakes win Saturday. In his two career stakes appearances, he finished second, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Burning Roma, in the $100,000 Long Branch Breeders' Cup last July; and fourth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Point Given, in the Grade 1 Haskell Handicap last August.

This Fleet Is Due has faced other top horses during his career. In his second lifetime start he was beaten a nose by Evening Attire, and in his third start he was beaten a head by Dollar Bill, while finishing a length in front of A P Valentine.

"We think a lot of him," said John Adger, racing manager for Stonerside.

Adger said This Fleet Is Due was pointing for the Grade 1 Travers after his bang-up race in the Haskell last year, but "popped a splint" and was instead given some time off. In his return Feb. 7, he finished a sharp second in an $80,000 optional claimer at Gulfstream Park, and in his most recent start he finished third against similar company March 15.

Caressing to Bayakoa

Caressing, who was under consideration for the Apple Blossom, will bypass the race and run Friday in the $75,000 Bayakoa, said trainer David Vance. The 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares will serve as her springboard to the Grade 2, $300,000 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs on May 3.

The Bayakoa is the first of nine stakes that make up the annual Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn. The Festival features at least one stakes daily through the close of the meet April 13.

* Gary Bevill, a longtime owner, died of a heart attack Sunday in North Little Rock, Ark. He was 64. Bevill had horses in training with Leon Cline.

* Jockey Sidney LeJeune Jr. has returned to Oaklawn after finishing fourth in the Sam Houston Race Park standings. After the meet ends, he will ride at Prairie Meadows.