10/06/2001 11:00PM

Miss Linda, Hap win at Keeneland

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - For months, trainer John Kimmel tried to find the key to his Argentine import, Miss Linda. He couldn't.

But with the help of his staff and jockey Richard Migliore, Miss Linda finally started running to her potential for Kimmel. On Sunday, by leading virtually all the way for a surprisingly easy victory in the Grade 1 Overbrook Spinster Stakes, Miss Linda showed that her improvement has been substantial indeed.

Ridden by Migliore, Miss Linda returned $45.60 after defeating Starrer by 2 1/4 lengths in the $562,000 Spinster, the Midwest's definitive autumn race for fillies and mares. Printemps, the 7-2 third choice in a field of 10, finished third, another half-length back. Unbridled Elaine, the 3-1 second choice, was fourth.

On a sunny and seasonable afternoon, and before an ontrack crowd of 11,763, Vivid Sunset and Miss Linda both sped clear from their outside posts to begin the 1 1/8-mile Spinster. After Vivid Sunset began to fade, Miss Linda "still felt very comfortable to me at the three-eighths pole," said Migliore. She responded in kind, easily turning back a mild bid from Starrer, a 9-1 shot.

After being well-beaten in her first three U.S. starts, Miss Linda began coming around this summer, winning a small stakes at Monmouth and a Saratoga allowance leading to the Spinster. "She's shown a ton of ability but she's very quirky," said Migliore. "I think it's really helped that I get on her all the time."

Ironically, Kimmel, who was not present, won the Spinster with a longshot while Pompeii, with whom Kimmel won the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga in August, finished fifth as the 3-1 favorite when making her first start since having been purchased by WinStar Farm.

Miss Linda, owned by Ackerley Brothers Farm, is a 4-year-old by the dual-hemisphere sire Southern Halo. As an Argentine-bred, she would have to be a supplementary entry to run in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff at the Oct. 27 World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park.

In earlier Sunday action:

* Hap became one of the deserving favorites for the Breeders' Cup Mile after getting a textbook trip under Jerry Bailey to win the $558,500, Grade 2 Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile. The distinctive-looking chestnut prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths and returned $5.20 as favorite in a field of nine.

Where's Taylor, an 18-1 shot who put away front-running North East Bound to open a clear lead after turning for home, held second, a head before Aly's Alley. Brahms was another three-quarters of a length back in fourth, while the rest finished well back.

The major concern for Bailey and trainer Bill Mott has been whether a mile is too short for Hap, a 5-year-old homebred owned by the Allen Paulson Living Trust.

"He's not really a mile horse, or at least that hasn't really been his strong point," said Bailey. "But today Billy had him a little sharper, and I was able to put him in the middle of the pack. He made my job a lot easier."

With his 10th victory from 16 starts netting a $346,270 winner's share, Hap now has earned over $1.24 million. The son of Theatrical had finished second in the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million in his previous start.

* Rochester ($12.40), with Pat Day aboard, angled to the rail in midstretch and gamely out-nodded Chorwon in the $166,200 Sycamore Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on turf. Regal Dynasty finished third.

Rochester, a 5-year-old homebred gelding owned by Augustin Stable and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, has won four of his last five starts. He and Chorwon trailed for most of the way before launching strong stretch runs.

Chorwon was one of three $1 million-plus earners in a field of seven. The others, Honor Glide and John's Call, finished fourth and seventh, respectively.

* Miss Seffens ($3.40) controlled the pace from the start of the inaugural Storm Cat Stakes to defeat three other fillies and mares in the $77,052 race. Another did most of the chasing to finish second by 1 3/4 lengths.

Miss Seffens, trained by Steve Wren and ridden by Jon Court, has won 11 of 21 starts. The 4-year-old Dehere filly, owned by Kaaren and Hays Biggs, finished six furlongs in 1:10.48.