03/30/2004 12:00AM

Madcap Escapade among late Triple Crown eligibles

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Madcap Escapade, an undefeated 3-year-old filly whose first career start was on Jan. 4, was among 15 horses nominated to the Triple Crown by the final deadline last Saturday, officials for the three-race series announced Tuesday.

Madcap Escapade, who is owned by Bruce Lunsford and trained by Frank Brothers, won her first start by 10 lengths and then easily took the Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream on Feb. 14 and the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes on March 13. She has yet to run beyond seven furlongs.

It costs $6,000 to nominate a horse late to the Triple Crown. Nominations that were received by Jan. 17 cost $600.

With the 15 late nominations, 449 horses have been nominated to this year's Triple Crown, which consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Triple Crown officials said the total was the third largest since the implementation of nominations in 1986.

With Madcap Escapade, nine fillies have been nominated to the Triple Crown. The nominees also include last year's 2-year-old filly champion, Halfbridled, and the runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Ashado.

Other than Madcap Escapade, two other graded stakes winners were nominated at the late deadline: Sinister G and Kilgowan. Sinister G won the Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes on March 20 at Turfway Park at odds of 16-1. Kilgowan won the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on March 13 at 26-1.

The late nominees also include Mustanfar, the second-place finisher in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby. Mustanfar is owned and was bred by Shadwell Stable, the racing operation of Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum.

Godolphin Racing, the racing operation of Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, did not nominate any horses late to the Triple Crown. Godolphin has unsuccessfully attempted to win the Derby over the past five years with a number of high-priced and well-bred horses that were trained up to the Derby in Dubai. This year, several of Godolphin's prospects were injured while training.

The other late nominees are Ascertain, Call Me Shane, Gamblin, Humorously, Kaufy Mate, Little Matth Man, Monocular, Pure American, Quiet Hero, Song of the Sword, and Trieste's Honor.