04/03/2010 11:00PM

Last not real Free Flying Soul

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Free Flying Soul has a score to settle Sunday in the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita.

A consistent 5-year-old mare, Free Flying Soul was favored at even money in a March 10 allowance, but finished a lackluster third in a race that trainer Bruce Headley said was designed merely as a bridge between starts.

"If she didn't run, it would have been two months," Headley said.

Free Flying Soul starts Sunday as the 120-pound topweight in the Las Flores, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares that was always her late-meet goal.

It is not an easy race. The Las Flores field includes Grade 2 winner Alpha Kitten, making her second start back; lightly raced closer Gilded Gem; front-runner Miss McCall; and Hallelujah Trail.

Free Flying Soul won a minor stakes last fall, and later finished third in two Grade 1 races - the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and Santa Monica Handicap. She has won 5 of 12 and $319,986 for owner Marsha Naify, but she still has one hole in her resume - a graded stakes win.

Headley has put two sharp five-furlong works into Free Flying Soul since her last start, and from post 7 she figures for a good trip pressing the pace under Mike Smith.

Alpha Kitten was a budding star one year ago, but after winning the Grade 2 Santa Ynez for 3-year-old sprint fillies she cracked a cannon bone during a routine gallop at Santa Anita and was sidelined for a year. Favored at 8-5 in her Feb. 24 comeback, she raced wide and finished a respectable second.

Since that start, Alpha Kitten has worked fast for trainer John Sadler; the 2-for-5 filly is likely to improve second start back.

Gilded Gem was 3-5 to win a second-level allowance last out, finishing second.

"The timing wasn't right," trainer Bob Baffert said, adding, "She's good now."

Gilded Gem has won 2 of 4. Baffert said his other Las Flores entrant, Mother Ruth, is not a confirmed starter.

Miss McCall set a blazing pace Jan. 30 and finished a creditable fourth in a restricted stakes race. She figures for an easier lead Sunday, and could lead gate to wire. Hallelujah Trail finished second last time out, a half-length in front of Free Flying Soul. Mona de Momma and She's Cheeky complete the field.