01/08/2002 12:00AM

Victory Ride overcoming injury

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - After watching Victory Ride train for a month, trainer Rusty Arnold is pleased with the progress she has made, and remains "cautiously optimistic" she will return to the races this year.

*, who won the Grade 1 Test Stakes in July and then suffered a broken leg during a workout on Aug. 18 at Saratoga, resumed training on Dec. 1 at Palm Beach Downs, Arnold said.

Victory Ride jogged for a month and began galloping last week.

"Everything looks good right now," Arnold said. "We'll keep our fingers crossed. You don't pass your first test until you start breezing. Let's say I'm cautiously optimistic."

Arnold said Victory Ride, who underwent surgery to repair the injury, would gallop for the month of January and, if everything continues to go well, would start breezing in February.

"Our goal is to run her the first of April," Arnold said. "We haven't looked at where or what race."

Arnold said Victory Ride has "gotten a lot bigger and stronger" since her 3-year-old year.

Victory Ride, a daughter of Seeking the Gold, won her first two starts impressively in the spring before finishing second to Forest Secrets in the Grade 1 Acorn in June.

She bounced back to win the Grade 1 Test on July 28, beating, among others, Xtra Heat. At the time of her injury, Victory Ride was being pointed to the Gazelle Handicap at Belmont.

De Bertie to go in Escena

De Bertie, who won the Sabin and Rampart handicaps over this track last year, returns to Gulfstream in Friday's $65,000 Escena Stakes, trainer Steve Flint said Tuesday.

Flint made the decision after consulting with owner Bertram Klein Tuesday morning. Flint said he was concerned that by running in the Escena, De Bertie might not be able to make the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap on Feb. 8 and the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap on March 2.

"It was kind of close to the Sabin Handicap, but it wasn't close enough not to run," Flint said. "The main reason we came to Florida with her was to run in the Sabin and Rampart, but the track's in a little better shape this year even though the times are slow, so we'll run one more time than we originally intended."

Last winter, De Bertie ran three times, finishing second in an allowance race before winning the Sabin and Rampart.

With Jorge Chavez serving a suspension this week, Jerry Bailey will ride De Bertie in the Escena, run at 1 1/16 miles over the main track.

After her success at Gulfstream, De Bertie was given last summer off and did not return to the races until Nov. 6 when she won an allowance race at Churchill Downs. She came back in the Falls City Handicap, where she caught an ultra-tough field and a slow pace and finished last. Her most recent start came in the Stage Door Betty Handicap at Calder, and again she fell victim to a slow pace and finished fifth as the 9-5 favorite.

"That Calder race tightened her up for this," Flint said.

Others expected to run in the Escena are Halo Reality, Lily's Affair, Shag, and possibly Unrestrained, Happily Unbridled, and Sara's Success.

Moubarak not done yet

Mohammed Moubarak, who saddled Pisces to an upset victory in Saturday's Appleton Handicap, said he may continue training for Buckram Oak Farm until the end of the Gulfstream Park meeting, before switching roles and becoming that outfit's racing manager.

Moubarak scored one of the biggest victories of his career on Saturday, and will now prepare Pisces to run next in the Canadian Turf Handicap on Feb. 23.

"He looks like he's come out of it great," Moubarak said. "As long as he stays sound and good we'll point for the Canadian Turf Cup."

Moubarak said he is not sure when he will officially become racing manager for Buckram Oak, but said he will not train "any longer than the end of this meet." Buckram Oak has already dispersed some of its stock to trainers such as Patrick Biancone, Patrick Byrne, Bill Mott, Carl Nafzger, and Nick Zito.

* Smok'n Frolic, winner of the Tempted and Demoiselle Stakes in New York, breezed three furlongs in 36.80 seconds Tuesday morning at Gulfstream Park. She is being targeted for the $250,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes here on March 15 with a potential prep in the Davona Dale on Feb. 24.

* Sharp Performance, winner of the Lexington and Lawrence Realization handicaps at Belmont as a 3-year-old, has resumed training at Gulfstream and will be pointed to a race some time in March, trainer David Donk said.

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