07/06/2005 11:00PM

No second-guessing around Madcap Escapade

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MIAMI - Trainer Frank Brothers could have made several excuses for Madcap Escapade's fifth-place finish as the 2-5 favorite in Churchill Downs' Humana Distaff Handicap on Kentucky Derby Day. For example, she had a near-disastrous final workout during which she had to abruptly alter course to avoid a horse who had strayed in her path near the finish line, and she just doesn't seem to handle the Churchill Downs surface very well.

Instead, Brothers simply wrote the race off as "one of those things" and began preparing Madcap Escapade for her next start, which comes Saturday at Calder in the Grade 2, $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap. The six-furlong Princess Rooney drew the strongest field of the four graded stakes on the Summit of Speed card. Along with and Molto Vita.

In the Humana Distaff, Madcap Escapade inexplicably shortened stride after holding a 2 1/2-length advantage leaving the eighth pole.

"I'm not much of an excuse guy," Brothers said. "The bottom line is it just wasn't her day."

The Humana Distaff was only the second loss in eight career starts for Madcap Escapade, a 4-year-old daughter of Hennessy owned by Bruce Lunsford. Her only other defeat also came at Churchill Downs, in the 2004 Kentucky Oaks, when she finished a tiring third behind Ashado.

"We caught a bump in the road, so now it's just a matter of regrouping and getting her back on her winning ways, like you'd do with any other horse," said Brothers. "This could be a tell-tale race for her, but it looks like a nice spot to bring her back and she's had a couple of good works since the Humana."

Madcap Escapade has never lost in Florida - she's perfect in four starts at Gulfstream Park - and is also undefeated at six furlongs, having won her maiden by 10 lengths and the Grade 3 Forward Gal Stakes by 11 3/4 lengths in her only two previous tries at the distance.

Jerry Bailey will again be aboard Madcap Escapade, who will carry high weight of 120 pounds and concede three pounds to Happy Ticket and Sensibly Chic.

Happy Ticket has won all nine career starts, the first eight of those victories coming in her native Louisiana. A 4-year-old daughter of Anet, Happy Ticket ventured outside her home state for the first time last month to win the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap at Arlington Park by 3 1/2 lengths over Savorthetime.

Trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. has tabbed Calder's leading rider, Eddie Castro, to handle Happy Ticket in the Princess Rooney.

Sensibly Chic overcame a poor start to post an easy 3 3/4-length victory over arch-rival Bank Audit in Belmont's Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap. Bank Audit had defeated Sensibly Chic in their two previous meetings, the Grade 2 Genuine Risk and Distaff Breeders' Cup handicaps.

Molto Vita has finished worse than third just once in her last nine starts, a streak that has included three stakes victories and a second-place finish in the Humana Distaff.

Local horses Sorbet, Wild Speed, and Prospective Saint, and the Chicago-based Savorthetime complete the Princess Rooney lineup.

The field

Princess Rooney Handicap
Purse: $500,000; 6 furlongs; Grade 2

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1SorbetR. Baze11015-1
2Wild SpeedC. Olivero11315-1
3Molto VitaM. Smith1156-1
4Prospective SaintJ. Chavez11220-1
5Happy TicketE. Castro1179-2
6SavorthetimeJ. Garcia11410-1
7Sensibly ChicC. Velasquez1172-1
8Madcap EscapadeJ. Bailey1208-5

* Odds by Kenny Peck