06/16/2004 11:00PM

Handicap boils down to just two


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Shelby Madison will try to get back on track as she stretches out for the first time this year in the $40,000 Brighouse Belles Handicap at Hastings on Saturday. Only four fillies and mares have been entered in the 1 1/16-mile feature, and it shapes up as a battle between Shelby Madison and Victor's Secret.

Shelby Madison was bred and is owned by Roy and Dixie Jacobson, and she was the leader of the filly and mare division at Hastings in 2003. Last season, she never ran in a sprint, but this year she has had three races at 6 1/2 furlongs. Her best finish was in her latest start, a distant second to Victor's Secret. Her trainer, Toni Jacobson Cloutier, is hoping the added distance will help get Shelby Madison back in the winner's circle.

"She really doesn't want to sprint," said Cloutier, "but she was going so well that we decided to run her instead of having her sit in the barn."

Shelby Madison, who will be ridden by Pedro Alvarado, has led from start to finish in most of her wins, and with a sharp Victor's Secret breaking from the rail, strategy figures to play a key role in the outcome.

"It's a riders' race, and we'll leave it up to Pedro," said Cloutier. "He's won enough races on her to know what to do."

Victor's Secret, the sharpest horse in the race, was the easiest of winners over Shelby Madison on May 29. Although she has never won an added-money event, she did finish second by a head to Dancewithavixen in the Sun Handicap on May 1. Trained by Lance Giesbrecht, she will be ridden by Chris Loseth.

Grace for You and Defrere's Image round out the field.