Updated on 09/17/2011 8:50PM

Good as a Grade 1

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The 4-year-old Madcap Escapade, unraced since last spring, comes into the Shirley Jones with only one loss in her career.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The Graded Stakes Committee saw fit to elevate the Shirley Jones Handicap from Grade 3 to Grade 2 status for the first time this winter. Little did the committee know the seven-furlong fixture for fillies and mares would draw a Grade 1-caliber field right off the bat, with Society Selection and Madcap Escapade each using the $150,000 Shirley Jones to launch her 4-year-old campaign Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

have accounted for four Grade 1 victories, three by Society Selection, the starting highweight under 120 pounds. Yet it will be Madcap Escapade who will be favored despite being on the sidelines since finishing third behind Eclipse Award winner Ashado in last year's Kentucky Oaks.

Madcap Escapade, trained by Frank Brothers, took the racing world by storm after winning her maiden by 10 lengths, the Old Hat Stakes by nearly 12, and the Grade 2 Forward Gal by 4 3/4 lengths while barely raising a sweat here last winter. She then proceeded to outlast Ashado by a half-length to capture the Grade 1 Ashland before having her unblemished record and 3-year-old campaign both come to an abrupt half in the April 30 Kentucky Oaks.

Madcap Escapade came out of the Oaks with a fractured hip that did not require surgery. She has worked steadily and at times spectacularly since early January in preparation for her return.

"She's worked well, done everything fine, and I'm very happy with her," Brothers said. "It's time to get started. This is an extremely tough spot to start out in. It's a huge jump she's making against older fillies, and seven furlongs is a tough distance since you've got to run pretty much the whole way. But I guess you can never write the script perfectly."

Madcap Escapade is freakishly fast and can be headstrong at time. She has spent most of her racing career on the lead, although Brothers is hoping Madcap Escapade will learn to harness some of that speed as she matures.

"I'm sure the pace will be fast on Saturday, and she'll be part of the pace," said Brothers. "The key this year will be if she can learn to wait a little bit. If she is able to come back at a high level that would make her a better horse."

Jerry Bailey will be aboard Madcap Escapade, who will carry 118 pounds.

Trainer Allen Jerkens knows Society Selection's task will be formidable. She is making her first start since finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

"A lot of times these races depend on how the track is playing that day, how much speed there is, and how the race gets run," said Jerkens. "My filly is doing good and she's ready to run, so we're going in and hoping for the best."

Society Selection is equally adept on fast or wet tracks, and has won Grade 1 races at distances ranging from seven furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. She will need some help with the pace if she's going to catch Madcap Escapade.

Despite the imposing presence of two Grade 1 winners, five other

fillies and mares have signed on for the Shirley Jones - Expect an Angel, Slews Final Answer, D'Wildcat Speed, Givememore, and Alix M.

Givememore is a nose shy of being undefeated in five career starts. Purchased privately by trainer Ken McPeek following a pair of group wins in her native Brazil, the 4-year-old Givememore won her U.S. debut by a neck in Calder's Our Dear Peg Stakes on Dec. 28.

"She was the champion 2-year-old filly in Brazil last year and technically she's only 3 1/2 years old, which puts us at a six-month disadvantage," said McPeek. "But I think she's a very talented horse, I'm confident she'll run a big race, and it's time to find out if she fits against this kind."

Alix M has finished first or second in all eight of her starts on dirt and is coming off the biggest win of her career, a 3 1/2-length victory over Bear Fan in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint. She defeated both D'Wildcat Speed and Slews Final Answer when the trio last met in Calder's Connies Magic Stakes in December.