04/04/2004 11:00PM

Halfbridled to enter Beaumont

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - It appears the scare involving Halfbridled last week was only that - a scare.

Trainer Richard Mandella said Monday that Halfbridled has fully recovered from the cramping incident that precluded her from running in the Ashland Stakes last weekend at Keeneland and that he intends to run her Thursday in the $250,000 Stonerside Beaumont Stakes. The Beaumont will serve as Halfbridled's final prep for the April 30 Kentucky Oaks.

"She's back to her old self," Mandella said Monday. "I actually breezed her three-eighths this morning, but it was still dark and the clockers didn't catch her. I know she went slow and easy. It was just something to hold her over, something to keep her head in the game. She came out of it fine. We're ready."

The Beaumont is a Grade 2 race at the Beard Course distance of seven furlongs and 184 feet. Although the one-turn distance may not be ideal in terms of preparing for the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, Mandella is simply thankful that the filly made such a quick recovery and will be able to squeeze in a final prep. Halfbridled, bred and owned by Wertheimer Farm, has raced just once since completing an undefeated season last October in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, having finished second to Silent Sighs in the March 13 Santa Anita Oaks.

Halfbridled was scratched Friday, the day before the Ashland, after she "tied up," or suffered cramps, when cooling out following a routine gallop. Mandella said Halfbridled has something of a history of tying up, although he said that before the Friday incident she had not had any such setbacks in several months.

Entries for the Beaumont were to be drawn Tuesday. Before Mandella revealed that Halfbridled would run, the field was expected to be a large one. These were the 3-year-old fillies likely to run: Forestier, Movant, Saltwater Runner, She's a Rebel Too, Sweet Vision, Tingwithasting, Victory U. S. A., Whirlwind Charlott, and Wildwood Flower.

In the absence of Halfbridled, Madcap Escapade was sent away as the odds-on favorite among the four remaining fillies in the Ashland. Madcap Escapade held on to win by a half-length over Ashado.

Perfect Soul, Honor in War head toward rematch

The last time a major grass race for older horses was run at Keeneland, Perfect Soul and Honor in War finished one-two in the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile.

That was in early October. A little more than six months later, with each of them having had just one more race apiece, the 5-year-old horses are expected to renew their rivalry Friday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Maker's Mark Mile.

Perfect Soul, trained by Roger Attfield, will be making his first start since finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Mile some three weeks after his Shadwell win. Honor in War, forced to skip the BC Mile because of a minor ankle injury, will be making his second start since the Shadwell, having finished third in a recent allowance race at Gulfstream.

Palaestra latest winner out of Flying Heat

The maiden victory by Palaestra on Saturday at Keeneland marked yet another success for the filly's dam, Flying Heat. Palaestra, a 3-year-old by Atticus, is the eighth foal out of Flying Heat, a Private Account mare who already has produced stakes horses Pompeii, Ground Storm, Omi, and Flying Lauren.

"She's been one terrific mare, hasn't she?" said John Kimmel, who trains Palaestra for owner Robert Clay of Three Chimneys Farm.

Palaestra, making her second career start after finishing fifth in a turf route at Gulfstream in February, stalked the pace before drawing clear to win by four lengths under Frank Lovato Jr.

Nice weather boosts weekend handle

Business was thriving here Saturday when Keeneland recorded its 10th-highest all-sources handle in history, with more than $11.7 million. That number easily surpassed the $9.4 million bet on the corresponding day last year. Ideal weather surely was a factor in the increase, just as Keeneland officials attributed nasty weather to a downturn in business here on Friday, opening day.

On the racetrack, John Velazquez, who recently departed Gulfstream Park as the leading rider, grabbed the early lead in the Keeneland riding chase. Velazquez rode five winners on the opening three-day weekend, one more than Pat Day and Shane Sellers and two more than Robby Albarado.

Wednesday's Blue Grass draw open to public

Keeneland figures to draw an earlier crowd than usual Wednesday. That's because, for the first time ever, the track is opening its post-position draw for the Blue Grass Stakes to the public. The draw will be held at 11:30 a.m. Eastern in the paddock. Many fans can be expected to stick around for the nine-race card that starts at 1:15.

The Blue Grass is the only Saturday race to be drawn Wednesday. The rest of the card will be drawn Thursday, as usual.

Congaree vs. Wando in Commonwealth BC

The Commonwealth Breeders' Cup figures to have one of the most attractive matchups in its 18-year history Saturday when Congaree, a winner of $3.25 million, meets Wando, the Canadian Triple Crown champion who has earned nearly $2.4 million.

Congaree was scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs from California this week. Wando has been at Keeneland for the past two weeks or so with trainer Michael Keogh.

The Grade 2, $250,000 Commonwealth BC is run at seven furlongs.

* The Rev. John Dalton, who was widely known among fellow racing fans at Gulfstream, Churchill, and Keeneland, died last week in Louisville at 72.