07/10/2002 11:00PM

Walden filly drops in class for HBPA


Happily Unbridled was no match for the likes of Raging Fever and other top-class fillies and mares when trainer Elliott Walden ran her last month in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park.

But a move to a considerably easier spot Saturday should give Happily Unbridled every opportunity to notch her first victory in more than 10 months. Happily Unbridled is the likely favorite in the $100,000 HBPA Handicap, the first of 11 stakes to be run this summer at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky.

Happily Unbridled was purchased several months ago by Walden on behalf of his primary client, WinStar Farm, who bought the 4-year-old Unbridled filly from Calder-based owner-trainer Happy Alter. In her two starts for WinStar, Happily Unbridled finished third in the Pimlico Distaff and fifth in the Phipps Handicap, respectable efforts that strongly suggest she should be able to handle the drop in competition Saturday.

The Phipps was the ninth consecutive defeat for Happily Unbridled, who won four of her first 10 career starts and has earned nearly $200,000. Walden nominated several horses to the one-mile HBPA before settling on Happily Unbridled, who will break from post 6 under Larry Melancon.

Happily Unbridled will be the starting highweight at 116 pounds, one more than Red n'Gold and Gal on the Go will carry.

Red n'Gold, trained by Bob Holthus, ran sixth and last in a Churchill optional claimer in her last start, but stands to post a mild upset Saturday if she can recapture her top form. A 4-year-old Tabasco Cat filly, Red n'Gold hit her peak in the spring at Oaklawn Park, where she won the Pippin and finished second in the Oaklawn Breeders' Cup and the Bayakoa.

Gal on the Go, trained by Vickie Foley, has developed into an effective late runner. Two starts back, she was beaten only a neck by another highly accomplished Walden filly, Pompeii.

The rest of the field consists of Patti Peach, Cindy's Hobby, Curve Ahead, Bravingthethunder, Dorothy Ann, and Two Dot Slew.

The top finishers in the HBPA can logically be expected to advance to the premier race of the 41-day Ellis meet, the $200,000 Gardenia Stakes. The Grade 3 Gardenia, the only graded race of the meet, is set for Aug. 10.

The HBPA was won last year by Rose of Zollern, who finished fifth as the favorite in the Gardenia.

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