02/06/2004 12:00AM

Madcap Escapade readying for encore

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Madcap Escapade, whose sparkling career debut earlier in the Gulfstream meet evoked memories of another Frank Brothers trained 3-year-old named Pulpit, is among the 19 3-year-old fillies nominated for next Saturday's $100,000 Old Hat Stakes at six furlongs.

Madcap Escapade overcame a sluggish start to draw away to a 10-length victory in her first start on Jan. 4. Her final time of 1:09.38 earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

A daughter of Hennessy, Madcap Escapade has kept a steady work schedule since her victory and was scheduled to breeze again here Saturday, weather permitting.

"I nominated her for the Old Hat to leave the door open," Brothers said Friday. "It's not the ideal thing to go right from a maiden race into a stakes, although you can get away with it with 2-year-olds or this early in their 3-year-old season. I'll see how she's doing this week and take a look see who might be going into the race. I haven't ruled it out completely, although it's more likely she'll run next in an allowance race."

Brothers said he would also like to try stretching out Madcap Escapade around two turns at some point. Not immediately, however.

"She's not short-strided or built like a sprinter, even though she's obviously got the speed of a sprinter," said Brothers. "She also has enough pedigree to run long. But her next start will be one turn regardless of where she runs."

Brothers sent out Pulpit to win his career debut by seven lengths here during the opening week of the 1997 meet. He brought him back to capture a first-level allowance race by 6 3/4 lengths as a prelude to his 1 1/2-length victory in the Fountain of Youth.

Among the other nominees for the Old Hat are Cherry Bomb and Irish Melody, a pair of Todd Pletcher-trained fillies who were also impressive winners of their only previous start.

Fountain, Hutcheson fields taking shape

The prospective starting lineups for next Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 3 Hutcheson Stakes are beginning to come into focus.

Racing secretary Dave Bailey said he expects a field of eight to 10 3-year-olds for the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, led by Second of June, Read the Footnotes, and Sir Oscar. Among the other likely starters are Mustanfar, El Prado Rob, Frisky Spider, and Farnum Alley. He said Hopefortheroses, Zakocity, and Blushing Indian are also under consideration. Silver Wagon's status has become uncertain due to a foot injury suffered last weekend.

Farnum Alley, a first-level allowance winner earlier in the meet, breezed five furlongs in 1:04.60 over a muddy track at Palm Meadows on Friday.

The seven-furlong Hutcheson will be led by Wynn Dot Comma, whose only setback in six starts came against the undefeated Sir Oscar in Calder's Jack Price Stakes. He figures to be joined by Harbour Gate, Saratoga County, Bourbon N Blues and Bachelor Blues. Heckle, Blushing Indian, and Weigelia are also potential starters.

Trainer Dale Romans remains on the fence whether to start Blushing Indian, impressive winner of an entry-level allowance race earlier in the meet, in the Fountain of Youth or Hutcheson.

Blushing Indian is scheduled to work here Sunday with jockey Jose Santos aboard. Romans said he may not make a final decision until entries are drawn for both races on Thursday.

Santos is scheduled to ride Silver Wagon if he runs in the Fountain of Youth.

Lead Story heads Sabin probables

A strong field is also shaping up for next Sunday's Grade 3 Sabin Handicap for older fillies and mares.

Lead Story, winner of the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff and Fall City handicaps to close out her 2003 campaign, tops a lineup that could also include Roar Emotion, Smok'n Frolic, Final Round, Nonsuch Bay, Pampered Princess, Passing Shot, Redoubled Miss, and Secret Request.

Lead Story worked five furlongs in 1:04.60 Friday at Palm Meadows.

Slow times, but turf still called firm

A strong overnight storm left the main track soggy for morning workouts, but by Friday afternoon, it was fast. The saturated turf, however, produced achingly slow times in three races Friday, and saw huge chunks of turf fly up during the races. Equibase chart caller Chuck Streva listed the course as yielding, which seemed logical, but Gulfstream's tote board and simulcast television show - seen at offtrack sites across the country - listed the course as firm.

You make the call: The fourth race, a first-level allowance at about 1 1/8 miles, was completed in 2:00.13, about 10 seconds slower than par. The seventh race, a second-level allowance at about one mile, took 1:42.13 to complete, about six seconds slower than par.

The day's featured ninth race, a money allowance at about one mile, was run in 1:41.41, a little more than six seconds slower than par.

"It's soft, but safe," said jockey Jose Santos after riding Stay Forever to victory in the ninth.

Stay Forever rallied down the middle of the course to beat Vespers by a neck. She paid $17.80. Ocean Drive was third.

The victory was the seventh in 11 lifetime starts for Stay Forever, a 7-year-old mare by Stack. She is trained by Marty Wolfson. Stay Forever was making her second start since returning from a nine-month layoff. She won the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream one year ago.

New Economy awaits final start

New Economy is scheduled to make the last start of her career Tuesday in the Endeavour Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The race was scheduled for Saturday but postponed when heavy rain was forecast for the Tampa area over the weekend. She had also been slated to run here the previous Saturday in the Grade 3 Suwannee River Handicap but was scratched when the race was taken off the turf.

New Economy is a multiple graded stakes-winning mare owned by breeder Robert Evans and trained by Graham Motion. A 6-year-old daughter of Red Ransom, New Economy captured Calder's Grade 2 La Prevoyante Handicap in 2002 and returned to the same course a year later to win the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman