04/08/2002 12:00AM

The return of Victory Ride


LEXINGTON, Ky. - If there had been voting last year on the top 10 most explosive performances in a Grade 1 stakes, surely Victory Ride would have made the list for her eye-catching victory in the Test Stakes.

The Test capped a rapid rise to stardom for Victory Ride, a Seeking the Gold filly who was making just the fourth start of her career. Unfortunately for owner Watts Humphrey and trainer Rusty Arnold, Victory Ride suffered a condylar fracture in a workout shortly after that sensational triumph.

Happily for her connections - and for racing fans who enjoy seeing top Thoroughbreds remain active whenever possible - Victory Ride will return to action Wednesday at Keeneland in the inaugural running of the $100,000 Madison Stakes. Arnold said surgery to repair the filly's right front leg, which included insertion of two permanent screws, was successful, and he is confident she is "100 percent" of what she had been before the injury.

"We're excited," said Arnold. "She's done everything extremely well since we brought her back. The fact she's back is just such a big step for us."

Victory Ride won her first two starts last spring by a combined 21 lengths, then was narrowly defeated by Forest Secrets in the Grade 1 Acorn. In her only subsequent start, the July 28 Test, she blew past Xtra Heat to win by 3 1/4 lengths.

In the seven-furlong Madison, Victory Ride will face seven other fillies and mares in what shapes up as a monstrous race. Among her opponents are Nasty Storm, who ended last year with three straight stakes victories; Trip, who has earned nearly $700,000 for Claiborne Farm; and Collect Call, a California invader who finished third last year in the Kentucky Oaks.

"It is an aggressive spot," said Arnold. "Obviously we'll find out Wednesday if she's back all the way. But she's done everything so well in her training that we're going into this pretty confident."

Edgar Prado, who will ride here Wednesday through Saturday, has a return call on Victory Ride.

The rest of the Madison field consists of Celtic Melody, City Fair, Away, and Irish Fantasy.

The Madison honors the citizenry of Madison County, which borders Fayette County, in which Keeneland is located. Anyone from Madison County will be admitted free Wednesday. The race displaces the Appalachian, a turf race for 3-year-old fillies, on the spring stakes schedule.

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