09/25/2002 11:00PM

Lindsay Jean taking to turf

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - The Hillsborough Handicap used to be one of the highlights of the racing calendar at Bay Meadows.

With its $100,000 purse and Grade 3 status, the Hillsborough usually attracted its share of top turf runners.

Although the purse has been dropped to $60,000 added, Saturday's edition of the Hillsborough Handicap will be as contentious as ever as a full field of 12 fillies and mares were entered for the 1 1/16-mile race over the turf.

Trainer Art Sherman has the local favorite in Lindsay Jean, who in her last start battled down the stretch with A B Noodle before losing by a head in the Lady Morvich Handicap on the turf here Aug. 17. Since then, Lindsay Jean has recorded three straight bullet drills.

"This is as good as I've had her," said Sherman, who has won two stakes with the 4-year-old Lindsey Jean and finished second in two others.

When Lindsay Jean was sent to Sherman last fall, she was an underachieving sprinter. Sherman decided to stretch her out and also to try her on grass. The changes have worked wonders.

"She was a long-striding filly," Sherman said. "I always thought she could run on the grass. She has all kinds of grass breeding with Saint Bellado as a sire."

It has taken Sherman a while, but he has finally gotten Lindsay Jean to relax early. Though she was not necessarily the type who would always go wire to wire, Lindsay Jean did go hard early.

It cost her, particularly in the May 5 Santa Clara Handicap on the Bay Meadows main track when she went the opening half-mile in 44.73 seconds and wound up fading to fourth.

Sherman has tried a variety of methods to get her to slow down early.

"She's learned to control her speed early and finish better," Sherman said. "We put her behind horses when she works. In her last work, she went 13 and 2 early and the last quarter in 23 seconds." That work was a 58.20-second five-furlong drill on Sept. 20.

Sherman has also begun to run her in a figure-eight bit that prevents her from opening her mouth so much when she runs.

Sherman likes his chances Saturday, because Lindsay Jean has enough speed to avoid any bunching deep in the pack.

"I like that, having a horse you can place anywhere," he said. "I don't like to be nine miles back, because you have to go too wide or else get caught in traffic. Having a speed horse when you route on the grass is a big advantage because the course has such narrow turns."

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