04/30/2004 12:00AM

Cramps sideline Halfbridled again

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Halfbridled, the reigning divisional champion who would have been one of the favorites Friday in the 130th Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, was scratched on the morning of the race after "tying up," the commonly used racetrack term for suffering muscle cramps.

Shortly after Halfbridled returned from a light gallop at about 6 a.m. Friday, she began displaying overt signs that she was tying up, forcing trainer Richard Mandella to take her out of the Oaks. The incident was the second of the spring for Halfbridled, following one on April 2 that led Mandella to scratch her from the Ashland Stakes the next day.

"This whole trip, it seems like things just weren't meant to be," Mandella said Friday. "This incident wasn't as serious as the one at Keeneland, and she actually walked out of it and is comfortable now. But it's race morning, and obviously we couldn't run her."

Mandella said he expected that Halfbridled probably would not race again until this summer.

Halfbridled, bred and owned by Wertheimer Farm, won all four of her races last year at 2, including a sensational win in the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, resulting in her being a nearly unanimous choice for Eclipse champion. She finished second in both of her races this year, to Silent Sighs in the Santa Anita Oaks and to Victory U. S. A. in the Stonerside Beaumont Stakes.

Tying up, technically known as azoturia, is a fairly common malady among racehorses. Halfbridled has been particularly susceptible to tying up, having suffered several occurrences during her career. Mandella had patterned his training schedule in recent weeks around the filly's proclivity toward tying up, but he was helpless to prevent what occurred here Friday morning.

"It's not the end of the world," said Mandella. "It's very disappointing because we had made this our goal since the Breeders' Cup. But when this happens, there's nothing you can do."

Bailey to miss first Derby since 1990

The scratch of Wimbledon from Saturday's Kentucky Derby because of a tendon injury left Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey without a Derby mount for the first time since 1990. His streak of 13 consecutive Derby rides was second only to Pat Day, who was scheduled to ride in his 21st consecutive Derby on Saturday.

Bailey, a two-time Derby winner, had several options for this year's race, including Read the Footnotes and Quintons Gold Rush, horses Bailey had won stakes on earlier in the year. Bailey had also ridden the Champagne winner, Birdstone, in his two starts this year.

Bailey was holding out hope that Eddington, third in the Wood Memorial, could have gotten into the Derby, but he was excluded from the field because of a lack of graded stakes earnings. Eddington would have been the first horse in had their been an also-eligible list.

"It's a little more painful in two senses," Bailey said. "I could have had a few other options to ride, but also there's no way for an also-eligible to get in if something like this happens.''

Bailey said he felt badly for James McIngvale, the owner of Wimbledon, and Peter Willmott, the owner of Eddington. It was far from a consolation prize, but Bailey did guide the McIngvale-owned Bull Market to victory in an entry-level allowance race on Friday.

It was still possible for Bailey to ride the Derby, but only if the connections of one of the other horses decided to make a last-minute rider change.

McPeek considers Ascot for Hard Buck

After nearly conquering Dubai, trainer Ken McPeek and his Brazilian-bred Hard Buck may be ready to invade England later this summer.

McPeek said Friday that he is seriously considering sending Hard Buck to Royal Ascot to run in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes on July 24. The race is run at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Hard Buck won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap in February then was beaten just a half-length by Polish Summer in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba in March. Hard Buck was given a month at the farm following the Dubai trip, and was scheduled to return to McPeek's Churchill Downs barn on Monday.

"He's fine, just a little R and R," McPeek said. "It was a long trip to Dubai, and he lost a little bit of weight. Not enough to matter, but we want to him ready for a summer and fall campaign."

McPeek said he would likely run Hard Buck in the $100,000 Opening Verse Handicap at Churchill on June 12 as a prep for the King George. "If he doesn't win his prep before he leaves, he won't go," McPeek said.

Midway Road probable for Pimlico Special

Midway Road had his first work here Friday since posting a one-sided victory in Keeneland's Ben Ali Handicap, breezing an easy three furlongs in 36.80 seconds over a sloppy track.

Midway Road earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 123 for his victory in the Ben Ali, tied for the highest Beyer Figure recorded by any horse since Artax's 124 in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Sprint. Trainer Neil Howard is considering the Grade 1 Pimlico Special on May 14 for Midway Road's next start.

"He galloped out six furlongs in 1:17.60 after his work," said Howard. "He gallops out real strong all the time. This was his first work since the last race, and I just wanted to see how he was. He couldn't have gone better."

Howard said he has a plane booked to Baltimore for Midway Road on May 10 but will not make a final decision on whether he will make the trip until he works his horse one more time.

"The Pimlico Special is still up in the air," said Howard. "He worked good this morning and is acting great, but he would be taking a big step up against those kind of horses, and I want to make sure all is just right with him before we decide to send him. I'll scrutinize him real close over the next 10 days, but if today's work is any indication, I'd say there's a pretty good chance he'll go."

Maddalena sharp in debut

Maddalena, who gained notoriety before she was even named for working a furlong in 9.80 seconds before the Fasig-Tipton Calder sales in February, won her debut Friday at Churchill Downs.

Under John Velazquez, Maddalena sprinted to the front, cut out fractions of 23.49 and 46.69 seconds, and covered the 4 1/2 furlongs in 52.80 seconds, winning by 5 3/4 lengths. John Velazquez rode Maddalena for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith purchased Maddalena, a daughter of Good and Tough, for $425,000.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch