04/17/2013 2:31PM

Santa Anita: Atta Girl Alma to try two turns in Friday optional claimer

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ARCADIA, Calif. – When Atta Girl Alma started her career in January, trainer Richard Baltas took his typical approach with a young horse. He thought the 3-year-old filly would improve with racing.

After finishing fifth and third in maiden races in January, Atta Girl Alma had better results as the season continued, finishing second in her turf debut in February and winning a maiden race on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on March 24.

On Friday, Atta Girl Alma makes her first start against winners in a $25,000 optional claimer over a mile on turf for California-bred fillies and mares. The race will be Atta Girl Alma’s debut around two turns, a scenario Baltas thinks will work.

He was encouraged by her six-furlong workout in 1:13.40 at Betfair Hollywood Park on April 11.

“I think she can handle a mile,” he said. “She’s small and kind of a compact filly, but she’s kind of gritty.”

Owned by breeders Alma and Nathan Rubinfeld, Atta Girl Alma is part of a field of eight fillies and mares. Atta Girl Alma beat older fillies and mares when she beat maidens.

Her losses in January did not discourage Baltas, who saw improvement when the filly was switched to turf for her third start.

“I don’t like to crank on them too much the first time,” Baltas said. “She got better with more racing.”

Atta Girl Alma is one of two runners in the race trained by Baltas. He also starts Distant Glow, a 5-year-old mare who has one win in eight starts. Owned by Ray Carriere, Distant Glow was seventh in a similar race on turf Feb. 17, her debut for Baltas.

“I ran her short the first time,” Baltas said. “I think she needed the race. I’m hoping for a solid performance.”

Distant Glow was previously trained by Jamie Lloyd and Mike Puype. She beat maidens in April 2011 when trained by Puype.

The Baltas runners must beat Boller Bomb, who won a starter allowance over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course March 31 in her turf debut. Friday’s race will be the first start around two turns for Boller Bomb, a 3-year-old trained by A.C. Avila.

Boller Bomb was third in the Generous Portion Stakes for 2-year-olds at Del Mar last August. She beat maidens in a $30,000 claiming race here Dec. 29.