07/08/2003 11:00PM

Miss Linda second in return

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Perhaps it was the year layoff or the string of injuries that compromised Miss Linda.

Whatever the reason, the Grade 1 winner was not her dominant self Wednesday afternoon at Monmouth Park and suffered a surprising defeat in her comeback race.

Rebecca's Charm won the mile and 70-yard allowance race with Miss Linda, the 3-10 favorite, a distant second.

It was far cry from what trainer John Kimmel and jockey Richard Migliore expected.

"When you have a horse coming off a year layoff after having suffered some injuries, you never have a real understanding of how well they're going to come back," Kimmel said. "To me, she looked very rusty."

For Miss Linda, winner of the 2001 Spinster at Keenelend, it was her first start since she stumbled at the start of the Grade 1 Go for Wand at Saratoga last summer and finished fourth. She subsequently suffered a hind-ankle injury and broke a bone in her knee when she became cast in her stall.

Miss Linda settled into third in the five-horse field entering the first turn. She pulled within a neck of the pacesetting Rebecca's Charm a half-mile from the finish but could not sustain the bid.

Rebecca's Charm easily rebuffed the challenge and pulled clear to win by 11 lengths. Miss Linda barely held second over Miss Splash.

"It obviously wasn't her 'A' effort," Migliore said. "I'm a little surprised she didn't handle them, but the winner ran a big race."

Rebecca's Charm paid $22.80 to win and ran the distance on the fast track in 1:42.71.