04/21/2004 11:00PM

A.P. Adventure fits profile of Oaks winners


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A stock will typically rise upon positive economic news, except when a company's reported profits are less than what analysts anticipated.

In racing terms, that is essentially what has happened to Madcap Escapade's "stock." Sent off at 5-1 odds in the second of three Kentucky Oaks future pools, her odds increased to 7-1 in Pool 3 after she took the Ashland Stakes in her two-turn debut.

She won, but she didn't win over the public or me. Her workmanlike victory left me confident in my selection for next Friday's Kentucky Oaks: A.P. Adventure.

With Madcap Escapade contributing to the pace - and not easy fractions like she set in the Ashland - the Oaks should set up for a late runner like A. P. Adventure.

The Oaks has played to closers in recent years. Seven of the past 10 winners sat sixth or worse after the opening half-mile. Only one filly during that stretch, Gal in a Ruckus in 1995, led throughout.

The closers that performed best were often those that had rallied in California. There they battled tough competition and speed-oriented racetracks.

At Churchill Downs, one of the least-biased tracks in the country, closers are in a better position to catch the leaders. Three of the past six winners - Farda Amiga (2002), Flute (2001), and Keeper Hill (1998) - came into the race after rallying for minor awards in the Santa Anita Oaks.

A.P. Adventure exits - you guessed it - the Santa Anita Oaks. Perfect in her first three starts, she tasted defeat for the first time when she rallied for third behind Silent Sighs that day.

As odd as it seems, her loss may have been to her benefit, at least in terms of her chances of winning the Kentucky Oaks. Racing on the inside at Santa Anita, she seemed intimidated.

Following that loss, her connections have reportedly opted to add blinkers for the Kentucky Oaks. If things had gone perfectly with a clean trip and she had won, the equipment change may not have occurred before the biggest race of her life.

What other evidence points to A.P. Adventure? Pedigree and class. A daughter of A.P. Indy, she won the Grade 1 Las Virgenes in her race preceding the Santa Anita Oaks.

If I had to pick a perfect distance for her, I would select 1 1/8 miles - the distance of the Oaks. But if I had to choose a best distance for Madcap Escapade or Silent Sighs, I would favor seven furlongs or less.

As if that is not enough, A.P. Adventure also has a highly skilled trainer: Wally Dollase. Dollase, like Bobby Frankel, is outstanding at priming his horses for lucrative stakes.

He is 49-16-8-10 in graded stakes since the start of last year. That translates to 33 percent winners and 69 percent in the money.

As for the other fillies expected to run in the Oaks, Hollywood Story is appealing as a longshot for many of the same reasons as A.P. Adventure. She won the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet from off the pace and also closed well in the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks, although she finished behind A.P. Adventure both times.

Silent Sighs beat A.P. Adventure, Hollywood Story, and Halfbridled in the Santa Anita Oaks, and could do so again. She has the pedigree to go 1 1/8 miles. The question with her is if she can relax. She has been a headstrong front-runner at times, which could leave her vulnerable if the pace is quick.

I liked Ashado in the Ashland, and was pleased with how she finished within a half-length of Madcap Escapade, despite being at a tactical disadvantage. But Ashland runners have underachieved at short prices in the Kentucky Oaks in recent years.

The Fantasy was a quick race this year, with House of Fortune and Island Sand finishing one-two. That race, much like the Arkansas Derby, has traditionally not been the classiest prep heading into the big spring races.

Finally, there is Halfbridled, who did not seem interested in competing in the April 8 Beaumont at Keeneland. She backed out of the race on the backstretch and drifted out badly on the turn. Somehow, she still finished a distant second to Victory U. S. A.

Her stock, like Madcap Escapade's, appears to be falling. Not so with A.P. Adventure - I'm bullish on her future.