11/19/2004 12:00AM

Madcap Escapade takes first step in return

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The comeback trail has begun for Madcap Escapade, the speedy filly who incurred a hip fracture about two weeks after her unbeaten record was snapped in the April 30 Kentucky Oaks, in which she was third. The injury did not require surgery.

In her first workout since getting time off, Madcap Escapade breezed three furlongs here Friday in 36.60 seconds over a sloppy track. She has been back in training at Churchill for about two months.

"Everything went fine," said trainer Frank Brothers. "The most important thing is she did it well within herself. She's been training great. We'll take our time with her, go to Miami, and start her later on down there. I don't know where. We just want to get her back in the game."

Madcap Escapade, owned by Bruce Lunsford, opened her career with four flashy wins, including the Grade 1 Ashland in April, before being beaten by Ashado in the Oaks.

No conflict in Romans-Fox case

Churchill Downs chief steward Mickey Sample said Friday that the track will take no action in what might be perceived as a conflict of interest concerning jockey Tammy Fox riding against horses trained by her common-law husband, Dale Romans.

After consulting with Kentucky Horse Racing Authority executive director Jim Gallagher, Sample said there will be a "further review at a later date" of what constitutes a conflict of interest in such cases. He said current regulations "make references to disallowing competition between people with spousal affiliations." Although Fox and Romans share the same address and have two children together, they are not legally married.

"There is nothing we could find to stop Tammy from riding" races in which Romans has an opposing horse, Sample said.

Thus far, the issue of a perceived conflict of interest seems moot. Into Friday, Fox, who has been far more active as a jockey recently because of the banishment of 14 jockeys earlier in the meet, had just one win from 29 mounts - and that lone winner came aboard Enjoythe Afternoon, a horse trained by Romans.

Fox also won the first race Friday aboard longshot White Hot Rocket in a race that Romans did not have a starter.

Rain delays Azeri workout

Azeri was expected to work early Saturday in preparation for the $300,000 Falls City Handicap, the Thursday race in which she is expected to be a heavy favorite.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said earlier this week that he wanted to work Azeri on Thursday or Friday, but after steady rain fell overnight Friday, Lukas put off the work for another day.

Churchill officials said the top opponents for Azeri in the 1 1/8-mile Falls City will probably be Halory Leigh, a runaway winner of the Churchill Distaff, and Mayo on the Side.

The Falls City kicks off the final three-day weekend of the meet. Eleven races will be run Thursday, and both the Friday and Saturday cards will consist of 12 races. Post time is 11:30 a.m. Eastern each day.

Colonial Colony breezes for Clark

Two probable starters for the $500,000 Clark Handicap had easy breezes here Friday: Colonial Colony, one of the favorites, went five furlongs in 1:01.80, and Best Minister, one of the longshots, went a half-mile in 49 seconds.

They are part of what is expected to be a big field for the Grade 2 Clark, which will be run Friday for the 130th time. Other probables include Perfect Drift, Saint Liam, Sir Cherokee, Eurosilver, Fantasticat, and Suave.

* Apprentice Brian Hernandez Jr. is making a double-pronged bid with his strong showing at the Churchill fall meet: to become what track officials believe to be the first apprentice to win a Churchill riding title and to win the Eclipse Award in his category.

Into the Friday card, Hernandez, 19, had 17 meet wins, just one behind leader John McKee.