Miss Linda became the fifth South American-bred winner of the Spinster.

Miss Linda became the fifth South American-bred winner of the Spinster.

AP/Breck Smither

Keeneland Race Report: Air Linda

Published in the Oct. 13 issue of The Blood-Horse
Fifteen minutes before the Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, jockey Richard Migliore was talking about the grueling early-morning flight he had taken Oct. 6 from New York to Kentucky. Fifteen minutes after the $562,000 race, sponsored for the first time by W.T. Young's Overbrook Farm, Migliore was talking about the beautiful late-afternoon flight he had taken Oct. 7 aboard Lee and Bob Ackerley's Miss Linda.

Saturday morning, Migliore arrived at LaGuardia an hour and 45 minutes before his flight. That almost wasn't early enough.

Sunday afternoon, Migliore took 1:49.79 to cover the nine furlongs of the Spinster. That was more than enough.

Winning trainer John Kimmel stayed behind in New York, but Migliore knew all he needed to know about Miss Linda, an Argentine-bred 4-year-old filly by Southern Halo. Migliore has been getting up on her every morning and helping the stable understand "her quirkiness."

"We made some mistakes with her earlier this year," Migliore said. "I always told John that Pompeii and Miss Linda were similar in ability. But one is push-button (Pompeii) and one is not.

"The last two months we really figured her (Miss Linda) out, rather than try to make her fit our program."

Pompeii, who was also in the Spinster field, won the grade I Personal Ensign Handicap for Migliore and Kimmel at Saratoga on Aug. 24. She subsequently was sold to WinStar Farm and transferred to trainer Elliott Walden, for whom she finished fifth behind Miss Linda. At 3-1, Pompeii was the slight Spinster favorite.

Close behind in the betting at just over 3-1 was Unbridled Elaine, who had won the Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II), then faced colts, finishing second in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. III) to Macho Uno. Printemps, the latest South American import for trainer Ron McAnally, was sent off at 7-2.

Being that, as Migliore said, she is not push-button, the jockey admitted he was worried with the outside post in the 10-horse field. But Miss Linda came out running. Racing with Vivid Sunset through an opening quarter in :22.99, Migliore sent the dark bay to the lead as they ran a half-mile in :46.41.

As they went six furlongs in 1:11.35, Unbridled Elaine launched her bid around the turn on the outside while Pompeii put in a run along the rail. Printemps and Starrer also moved into contention as the field straightened away for home.

The running, however, was all for second. After a mile in 1:36.97, Miss Linda glided home 2 1/4 lengths in front of Starrer, with Printemps finishing third. The longshot winner paid $45.60.

In four of the past dozen runnings of the Spinster, a South American-bred had won, and all three distaffers were trained by McAnally. He won with champions Bayakoa (1989 and 1990) and Paseana (1993) as well as Different (1996). Most of the time, horses imported from the Southern Hemisphere seem to end up on the West Coast. But not Miss Linda.

"We were at a 2-year-old sale in Florida when John (Kimmel) told us John Fulton, who sells mares from South America, had two fillies for sale. He asked if we were interested," Lee Ackerley said. "We said we were."

A decision was made to keep Miss Linda in South America, partially because Lee Ackerley's wife is from Argentina. When she won two group I races to sew up a 3-year-old filly championship in Argentina, the decision was made to send her to Kimmel. She joined his stable at Payson Park last December, then made her first start in this country in mid May.

Miss Linda won the Lady's Secret Stakes at Monmouth on Aug. 5, then won an allowance race at Saratoga on Aug. 27. She was entered in the Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) on Sept. 15, but that race was canceled following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Kimmel could have kept Miss Linda in New York for the Beldame (gr. I) the day before the Spinster. But, according to Ackerley, the trainer had solid reasons for shipping her to Kentucky.

"John's theory was that she would like two turns and also prefer this track," Ackerley said. "He also thought this race might come up easier...I don't think he was necessarily right about that part."

Miss Linda would have to be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), but should Kimmel give the go-ahead, Ackerley said he and his brother would not hesitate to put up the money.

"Especially this year with it (the Breeders' Cup) at Belmont," Ackerley said. "We live in Houston, but we're originally from Floral Park (New York), near Belmont.

"Belmont is like our hometown."

Migliore made clear his feelings about the Breeders' Cup, but didn't have much time to talk about it.

"I've got a plane to catch," Migliore said, quickly exiting the circle of reporters.

Much like his ride on Miss Linda, at least this flight was a private charter.


(Chart, Equibase)