Making her first start since April 30, the brilliant filly Madcap Escapade won Saturday's $150,000 Shirley Jones Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park in little more than a canter after overcoming a terrible start.
The 4-year-old daughter of Hennessy, who was sensational in four starts last year before injuring her hip in a third-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at muddy Churchill Downs, showed she lost nothing during the long layoff.
Ridden by Jerry Bailey, Madcap Escapade spotted the field five lengths when she was slow out of the gate from her rail starting position. Grade I winner Society Selection, starting next to her, stumbled and veered inward at the break, causing Madcap Escapade to swerve. But the mishap was little more than a stutter to Madcap Escapade, who took advantage of an open rail to quickly sprint to the front. She led by 3 1/2 lengths after a quarter mile.
Madcap Escapade completed the seven-furlong event for fillies and mares in 1:22 ridden out by Bailey as the 3-5 choice in the field of seven.
"She's never been a particularly good breaker, so that (slow start) didn't surprise me," Bailey said. "But once she gets in gear, she has a very high cruising speed. I just shook her up a little bit through the stretch."
Alix M emerged from the pack in the stretch to make it a little interesting with Javier Castellano aboard, finishing second, two lengths behind Madcap Escapade.
"My filly broke well and did everything perfectly," Castellano said. "I thought I had the winner at the quarter pole but when Jerry asked (Madcap Escapade) she just took off. She's something else."
D'Wildcat Speed, Eddie Castro riding, was third, four behind the winner.
Society Selection, the second favorite at odds of 7-2, couldn't recover from her poor start and finished last. She is now winless in three starts at Gulfstream.
After a :22 3/5 opening quarter mile, Madcap Escapade ran a :44 4/5 half and six furlongs in 1:09. She improved her record at Gulfstream to four wins in as many tries.
Trained by Frank Brothers for owner Bruce Lunsford, Madcap Escapade won for the fifth time in six career starts.
"It's always good to get the first one out under our belt," Brothers said. "At the break, I wanted to throw up.
"I figured she'd catch up pretty quick, but you have to figure how much of a toll that takes out of her later. She's an exceptional filly. We'll just enjoy this one and talk about what's next in a few days."
Last year at Gulfstream, Madcap Escapade broke her maiden in her debut by 10 lengths, won the Old Hat by 11 3/4 lengths, and captured the Forward Gal (gr. III) by 4 3/4 lengths. She next defeated champion 3-year-old filly Ashado by a half-length in the 1 1/16-mile Ashland (gr. I) April 3 at Keeneland in her first race around two turns. That was her last start before the Kentucky Oaks, where she was three lengths behind Ashado while finishing third.
A $160,000 Keeneland sale in 2002, Madcap Escapade increased her career earnings to $626,400. From the Saratoga Six
mare Sassy pants, she was bred in Kentucky by Needham/Betz Thoroughbreds and James Blackburn.
She paid $3.20, $2.60 and $2.40. Alix M returned $3.60 and $3. D'Wildcat Speed's show was $4.80.
Slews Final Answer finished fourth, followed by Expect an Angel, Givememore, and Society Selection.