Crowned heads 3-horse photo finish


STANTON, Del. -- When a trainer becomes as successful as Ben Perkins Jr., winning races can become a ho-hum affair.

But after Crowned held on to win a three-horse photo in the $115,700 Delaware Handicap yesterday, Perkins said few races had given him such a thrill.

"This is the best race we've won this year," said Perkins, whose large stable has become a powerhouse at Maryland and New Jersey tracks. "It was so exciting. There's just so much tradition involved with this race, and it was great for Mrs. du Pont to win it."

Crowned, a 4-year-old filly, won the 54th renewal of Delaware Park's premier event by a head over Maskra's Lady, who had a nose on Tia Juanita. The winner is owned by the Bohemia Stable of Mrs. Allaire du Pont, who has raced such great horses as five-time Horse of the Year Kelso and Politely, who won the Delaware Handicap in 1968.

Crowned, one of four Maryland-based horses in a field of eight older fillies and mares, overtook Wait For the Lady midway down the backstretch. "I saw the other horse getting out in the first turn, and I waited to see what she was going to do," said Rick Wilson, who rode Crowned. "When she stayed out, I went ahead and let my filly drag me to the front. I didn't really want to make the lead that early, but at the quarter pole she was still full of run."

With a quarter-mile left in the 1 1/4 -mile race, Maskra's Lady, a 9-1 shot, and Tia Juanita, the rank outsider at 60-1, had drawn closest by making an outside surge. Both appeared ready to falter, but neither did; in the final sixteenth, both were closing steadily outside of Crowned, and the finish left a crowd of 10,811 roaring.

Crowned held on, finishing in 2 minutes, 4 seconds, and paying as second choice. Lady D'Accord finished fourth, nearly five lengths behind Tia Juanita.

Buy the Firm, the 9-10 favorite, never was a serious factor. She finished fifth after tracking the leaders from fourth. "She didn't do her running today at all," said jockey Herb McCauley.

After Buy the Firm came Sweet Alex, Oriental Faith and Wait For the Lady, who was eased.

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