12/27/2006 1:00AM

Linda Albert


Linda Albert trains a modest string of less than a dozen runners at Bowie in Maryland, yet she has managed to win with 8 of her last 23 starters dating back to Sept. 7. Albert sends runners predominantly to Laurel and Pimlico, but also seeks spots wherever her horses might fit, including at Charles Town, Colonial Downs, Delaware Park, and Philadelphia Park.

Albert, who briefly rode in 1984 - "I wasn't making a living doing that," she said - took out her trainer's license in 1988 and has won at a rate between 15 and 20 percent in most years. Her best years came in 1999 and 2000, when she won more than 50 races and over

$1 million in purses each year. Her numbers have dipped a bit since 2005 (when she went 27 for 193), but given limited firepower, her ability must be respected. Her recent hot streak has her at 21 for 144 this year, and she said she is eager to build upon her recent success.

"We've been having some fun lately and getting some wins with young horses and maidens to give us some hope," Albert said. "At one point a few years back, we had a barn of about 40 or so, and while we might not have the numbers now, we are trying to climb up. This is a game of ups and downs. In the summer, many of our horses were not doing well, and we found many of them homes and replaced them with some fresh stock and have gotten positive results."

In racing circles, you'll often hear how this sport can make you humble. Albert is already there.

"We won a maiden race with Scottish Dream recently," Albert said of a juvenile colt who paid $43.20 for a one-length victory in his second start, which came on the heels of a 10th-place debut. "He had never shown anything and surprised me. I ran him in a race where I'd hoped he could be competitive, and my reaction in watching the race went quickly from, 'We can get a check here,' to 'Wow, we're going to win this thing.' I mean, sometimes I'll take credit, but sometimes there is no rhyme or reason. I didn't see that one coming, and I felt like an idiot when he won."

But Albert's shrewd placement of her runners proves her success is due to more than blind luck.

Pining for You, a lower-end claim for Albert, has since won 4 of 12 starts for her, including a 5 1/2-length allowance win Nov. 1.

"He's been a real pleasant surprise for us," she said. "I'm very proud of what we've been able to do with him and think we worked his conditions well and got him through some easy races along the way."

Albert's statistics say she is best with horses stretching out in distance or with juveniles. While Albert said she believes the numbers are simply a function of what is in the shed row, she did say, "My horses do seem to perform better going longer, and maybe that's just because those races are easier. I'm not sure. I don't think I do anything different than anyone else in my training methods, but sometimes I guess I just have horses that won't keep up with sprinters and show improvement at longer distances. We just try to put them in the best spots we can find to get results."

Perfect to a Tee, whom Albert points to as a career highlight, produced plenty of results in 1999. A cheap claim in 1995, he won several stakes for Albert, including the Maryland Million Classic.