04/11/2005 12:00AM

Catch 'Madcap' if you can

Madcap Escapade, winning the Shirley Jones Handicap under Jerry Bailey, breaks from post 7 in Wednesday's Vinery Madison at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - It has all the makings of a classic sprint. A flashy speedster with an outside post will try to kick clear of a never-say-die grinder with an inside draw when the $200,000 Vinery Madison Stakes is run Wednesday at Keeneland.

, the brilliant filly who has lost only once in six career starts, will be a solid favorite when she breaks from post 7 in a field of seven fillies and mares in the Grade 3 Madison, a seven-furlong race that helps kick off the biggest week of the Keeneland spring meet. Souris, a 5-year-old mare who brings a four-race win streak and an unrelenting stalking style to the race, drew the rail.

"We have all the respect in the world for Madcap Escapade and what she's done," said Steve Asmussen, trainer of Souris. "But we're going in there thinking we've got as good a shot as she does."

Madcap Escapade, owned by Louisville, Ky., businessman Bruce Lunsford and trained by Frank Brothers, will be making her second start since having been sidelined with a hairline fracture in a hip. The injury did not require surgery but kept Madcap Escapade, a 4-year-old filly by Hennessy, away from the races for nearly 10 months.

In the Feb. 19 Shirley Jones Handicap at Gulfstream Park, her first start since finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks last April, Madcap Escapade showed no signs of having lost a step, overcoming a somewhat awkward start before zipping straight to the lead and winning by two lengths. She ran seven furlongs in 1:22 that day to earn a 106 Beyer Speed Figure.

Jerry Bailey, who rode Madcap Escapade in the Oaks and the Shirley Jones, has the mount again Wednesday. Bailey figures to take advantage of the outside post by using a load-and-go strategy that surely will make things difficult for the two other apparent speed horses in the race, Molto Vita and Revolutionary Act, who drew the two post positions just to the inside of Madcap Escapade.

"She has a very high cruising speed," said Bailey.

Madcap Escapade, who won the Ashland Stakes over this same Keeneland surface last April, blew out for the Madison with a half-mile bullet in 45.20 seconds at Churchill Downs on Friday.

also comes into the Madison in peak form, having most recently won the Feb. 26 Spring Fever at Oaklawn to earn a 106 Beyer.

The balance of an outstanding Madison field is Josh's Madelyn, winner of the Grade 2 Raven Run here last fall; , winner of the Grade 2 Honorable Miss last summer at Saratoga; and Bending Strings, winner of the Grade 2 First Flight at Aqueduct last fall.

The Madison is the first of several important stakes to be run here this week. The schedule is highlighted by the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday and also includes the Grade 2 Beaumont on Thursday and the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile on Friday.

Besides the Madison, racing secretary Ben Huffman and his staff have put together five allowances (races 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9) and a $100,000 claiming event (race 2) for Wednesday.

First post for the fourth of 16 spring programs is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.