01/29/2005 1:00AM

Midway Road injures leg

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NEW ORLEANS - Midway Road, the most accomplished handicap horse in Neil Howard's barn, was sent to Kentucky for surgery after X-rays revealed a small fracture in his left leg.

"I don't know how it happened," said Howard. "He must have taken a bad step and the torque caused the injury. He worked, came back to the barn, and had his bath before he showed any signs. He has a fracture in his cannon bone."

A 5-year-old by Jade Hunter, Midway Road won two Grade 3 races at Keeneland last year, the Ben Ali and Fayette. He also finished second in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special.

As a 3-year-old, he finished second in the Preakness and third in the Ohio Derby. Midway Road won his last start, the Tenacious Handicap here on Dec. 4. He has a lifetime record of 7-2-2 in 16 starts and earnings of $695,060.

Howard hopes that the horse may yet add to those totals.

"It's not displaced, so they say he may come back to race again. We'll have to see how he comes out of the surgery."

Chilling Effect moves up a notch

Chilling Effect, one of the likely favorites in Monday's Fair Grounds feature, a $40,000 optional claiming race for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the grass, returns to the level she was claimed at two races back by trainer Gamaliel Vazquez and owner Michael Gill. Vazquez dropped Chilling Effect, a 6-year-old Gold Fever mare, into a $35,000 claimer last time out and won that race, which had come off the turf . He moves her back up the ladder on Monday. Chilling Effect is the leading money-winner in the field on the grass, having bankrolled $147,213 in 20 lifetime turf starts.

Cape Town Lass is stakes-placed, having finished second in the Grade 2 Mrs Revere at Churchill Downs. A 4-year-old filly by Horse Chestnut, Cape Town Lass couldn't handle Shadow Cast in the Pago Hop last out, but this is a much easier spot.

Unbridled Echo fits well in this race but will have to break from the outside post in the field of 12. A 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song, she won her first two starts on the grass, then was overmatched in the Grade 3 Pucker Up, finishing 11th, and a Keeneland allowance race where she may not have liked the off going. She was switched to Bobby Barnett's barn after that race and has been training well for her first start since Oct. 17.

Howl at the Moon is also 2 for 4 on the grass, with a maiden win and an entry-level allowance score at Lone Star Park to her credit. A 4-year-old Dynaformer filly, she has been off since June, though, and may need a race.

Leopard Hunt, a 4-year-old Diesis filly trained by Andrew McKeever, raced in England as a 2-year-old, where she won her first start at Goodwood. She returned as a 3-year-old in September to win her first U. S. start at Delaware. She tired after pressing the pace in her first local start last month and should improve off that effort.