03/29/2011 1:02PM

Santa Anita: Sarasota Sunshine shortens up, adds blinkers


ARCADIA, Calif. – Sarasota Sunshine’s first few starts in California have been an experiment for trainer Mike Mitchell.

Mitchell ran Sarasota Sunshine in an optional claimer over seven furlongs on Feb. 18, when she finished a decent fourth behind the subsequent stakes winner Church Camp. A start in a one-mile turf race was not as successful on March 12, a last-place finish in a field of 10.

For Thursday’s seventh race at Santa Anita, Mitchell is reverting to what has worked in the recent past for Sarasota Sunshine. She starts in an optional claimer on the hillside turf course and will wear blinkers. The conditions are not quite the same as Sarasota Sunshine’s last win – a handicap race over seven furlongs on turf at Salisbury, England, last September – but it is close. Sarasota Sunshine won two turf sprints wearing blinkers last year in England.

“I’m putting the blinkers back on and I’m going to run her short,” Mitchell said. “I think 6 1/2 is what she wants.”

Owned by Dan Capen and sports commentator Jim Rome, Sarasota Sunshine has drawn the inside post in a field of seven and will be ridden by Joe Talamo, who was aboard for her first two American starts.

Saratosa Sunshine’s loss on March 12 may discourage some bettors, but Mitchell is focused on the way she ran in her U.S. debut. A 5-year-old mare who has won 7 of 19 starts, Sarasota Sunshine was beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Church Camp, who won Sunday’s Santa Lucia Stakes.

She was closest to the leaders at the wire after racing inside.

“She had no place to go,” Mitchell said.

Thursday’s field features one filly who won her last start in Holy Flapper, trained by Peter Eurton. She won an allowance race on the hillside turf course Feb. 6, her second win in eight starts and second victory in a turf sprint.

Linda Lou will play a vital role as the likely pacesetter. Trained by Richard Mandella, the 6-year-old Linda Lou has started twice this year, both in sprints on the hillside turf course, finishing second by a nose to Reba Is Tops in an optional claimer on Jan. 21 and fourth behind division leader Unzip Me in the Clocker’s Corner Handicap on March 5.

The Jan. 21 race was Linda Lou’s first start since October 2009.