First, Saudi Brass, the overnight favorite, was scratched because of a problem with her left hind foot.
Then, the apparent winner, Jazzy One, was disqualified for interfering with a horse that finished out of the money.
That left Darinka to pick up after them as the official winner of the $40,000 Alma North Handicap yesterday in the showcase race of Timonium's 10-day meeting.
It was a $24,000 payday for the 4-year-old chestnut filly, who stalked the speedster Jazzy One for the final half-mile and was beaten to the wire by only a head.
But the stewards took down Jazzy One and jockey Jo Jo Ladner, judging that they had carried Annie's Warning, who had dueled for the lead, wide on the clubhouse turn about halfway through the 1 1/16-mile event.
Jockey Ricardo Canon claimed foul after Annie's Warning never regained her stride and finished last.
Ladner acknowledged the trouble.
"I knew this filly [Jazzy One] was tough to ride," he said. "I did my best, but she's hard to straighten out sometimes. It was not intentional.
"It's kind of rough when somebody who finishes last claims foul on the winner."
With Joe Rocco aboard, Jazzy One was also disqualified (and placed sixth) after finishing first in the $50,000 Jacob France Handicap at Pimlico on May 2.
Alberto Delgado, astride Darinka, said he thought he had the race won with a strong rally into the stretch but "she started pulling up on her own. I knew when we got to the wire I was beaten.
"But I'll take them [victories] any way I can get them."
Delgado, who leads the meeting with 10 winners (one ahead of Walter Cullum) will compete on today's card, then go to the Meadowlands on Labor Day to ride Exotic Sea in a stakes race.
Trainer Rob Bailes agreed that Darinka "started to pull up on her own" during the stretch duel and was grateful for the good fortune of the disqualification.
"It cooled off today and that helped her a little," said Bailes. "She's not a real hot weather horse."
Bailes said Darinka, now 7-for-19 lifetime, may be pointed for the Maryland Million card if she is eligible.
NOTES: The defending training champion, Jerry Robb, had his first winner of the meet in the second race with maiden Shayndil's Gold ($5.00). It was the filly's second start. . . . Timonium officials shifted yesterday's simulcast of the Gazelle Handicap at Belmont Park from the 10th race to the ninth to accommodate bettors. There have been several cases of insufficient time to bet on simulcast races at the track. That left plenty of leeway for betting on the Alma North. . . . Triple wagering was canceled on the fifth race after two horses were scratched, reducing the field to five. . . . Trainer John McKee has been fined $500 for running a horse with an excessive level of phenylbutazone.