04/22/2004 11:00PM

Derby horses try to stay dry

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Track: Sloppy
Weather: Raining
Temp: 60

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Keeping dry was the order of the day at Churchill Downs on Friday where heavy rain had everyone ducking for cover before the mid-morning renovation break.

The majority of the other Kentucky Derby contenders stabled on the grounds managed to beat the worst of the rain, getting their morning gallops in early. Only BORREGO and ROCK HARD TEN went out after the break and both splashed along eagerly over the wet track.

The most anticipated event of the morning came around 7:00 a.m. when SMARTY JONES made his first appearance here after vanning over from Keeneland the previous afternoon. Accompanied by trainer John Servis aboard the stable pony, SMARTY JONES stood quietly near the six furlong gap for several minutes before galloping once around the one mile track while tugging along at Servis as if wanting to do more.

Trainer Nick Zito obviously tuned into the Weather Channel before making out his training chart as he had both BIRDSTONE and THE CLIFF'S EDGE out a bit earlier than usual to avoid the coming downpours. BIRDSTONE galloping a strong mile and one half before sunrise and his stablemate shortly thereafter. THE CLIFF'S EDGE continues to make a grand appearance although the fact he had his head up a little more than usual might indicate he was not as comfortable over the slick, wet surface as he is over dryer footing.

Stablemates POLLARD'S VISION and LIMEHOUSE continue to get in their training long before daylight and are somewhat a contrast in styles. POLLARD'S VISION has been strong and willing during his early morning gallops while LIMEHOUSE needs time to stretch his legs a bit and doesn't really get into his most comfortable stride until well into his regular mile and one half gallops.

MASTER DAVID was one of the last horses on the track prior to the renovation break and as a result found himself sloshing along in a driving rain but put in a good morning's work, a strong mile and one half gallop under regular exercise rider Jose Cuevas.

The only serious activity on Friday came from two fillies gearing up for the Kentucky Oaks. The undefeated MADCAP ESCAPADE and the lesser regarded ISLAND SAND.

Anyone who blinked twice might have missed MADCAP ESCAPADE'S wild five furlong work clocked in :58.44 by Daily Racing Form. Breaking off from trainer Frank Brothers aboard the stable pony after warming up in the mile chute, Madcap Escapade was full of run well before hitting the five furlong pole getting her opening splits in a mind boggling :11.29 and :22.84. She continued along in hand but at a torrid pace , posting splits of :34.47 and :46.55 before galloping out six furlongs in an incredible 1:11.63 over the wet track. The question remains whether the freakishly fast filly's seeming inability to relax will finally prove her undoing in the one mile and one eighth Oaks.

ISLAND SAGA was much more reserved working over an even wetter track after the break, going five furlongs in a relatively conservative 1:01.06.