01/23/2006 1:00AM

Allowance has unusual appeal in top pairing


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A seemingly innocuous midweek first-level allowance dash for older fillies and mares has instead become a race of considerable interest, pitting the multiple graded-stakes-placed Aspen Tree against Madcap Escapade's baby sister Dubai Escapade.

The $33,000 allowance dash will be decided at 6 1/2 furlongs and shares top billing on Wednesday's card with a 1 1/16-mile entry-level allowance race for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.

was winless in seven starts at 3 last year but finished second in Keeneland's Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes, third here last winter in both the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss and Grade 3 Old Hat stakes, and fourth in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga. She was turned over to trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. shortly after the Test and made one more start before concluding her 2005 campaign, with a close second as the 4-5 favorite in Aqueduct's restricted Open Mind Stakes on Nov. 20.

"I still can't believe she didn't win that last start at Aqueduct," said Dutrow. "I was sick about it. I still don't know how or why she didn't go past that other horse."

Dutrow will put blinkers on Aspen Tree for Wednesday's race, her 2006 debut, hoping the equipment change will help alleviate her problem of hanging through the stretch.

Edgar Prado will ride Aspen Tree.

, a half-sister to Madcap Escapade by Awesome Again, was purchased by the Darley Stable for $2 million at the 2004 Barretts March sale. She started just once each at 2 and 3, finishing a well-beaten fifth debuting on grass in England in June 2004 before returning nine months later to win her maiden by 5 1/4 lengths going a mile at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse in Dubai.

Dubai Escapade, trained by Eoin Harty, has worked steadily and at times spectacularly at the Palm Meadows training center, with her latest work a bullet half-mile in 47.60 seconds on Jan. 20. She will race on Lasix for the first time and have John Velazquez aboard.

Among those with perhaps the best chances of upsetting the two favorites are .

Sprightly, beaten less than a length in Calder's Cherokee Frolic Stakes in her 2-year-old finale, may be the slight choice in the fourth race. Her toughest competition should come from Delmarva, Trophy Pride, Aubaine, and Frozen Treat.