STANTON, Del. -- Severe overnight thunderstorms wreaked so much havoc and downed so many electric lines at Delaware Park that track president Bill Rickman Jr. thought he might have to cancel yesterday's Delaware Handicap card.
But someone forgot to shut the power off of a bay thoroughbred bundle of energy named Night Fax.
Rickman called in subcontractors, got electricity reinstated at the track by mid-morning, and the Grade II Delaware Handicap, the state's richest horse race, was a go, just in time to offer some lucrative rewards to a bunch of Marylanders.
Laurel Park trainer Billy Turner told local jockey Jeff Carle a week ago that the filly that he trains for Audley Farm Inc., Night Fax, was about to run "the race of her life" in the Delaware Handicap.
Carle and Turner must have been the only ones who knew.
The filly, one of only two non-stakes winners in the eight-horse field, was sent off with the longest price in the lineup at 26-1 odds, and carried lowest weight of 108 pounds.
That's why Turner had asked Carle, instead of his regular jockey, Donnie Miller Jr., to ride the horse. "I knew Jeff could make the weight," Turner said.
"Sometimes it pays to be a runt," Carle quipped after Night Fax stalked pacesetters It's Personal, ridden by Miller, and Cavada during a slow first mile of the 1 1/4 -mile race and then, in Carle's words, "exploded" in the stretch.
The horse, loaded with stamina from some stout German breeding on the dam's side of her pedigree, defeated Delaware-based Cavada by 1 1/2 lengths and completed the 10 furlongs in 2 minutes, 2 4/5 seconds. It's Personal was third, followed by favored Hey Hazel.
Night Fax took down first-prize money of $95,070 and gave Turner his first graded stakes win since he won the Remsen Stakes a couple of years ago at Aqueduct.
Turner, who trained 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, has settled in nicely with a 30-horse string the past few years at Laurel and has about a dozen horses for Audley, his biggest client.
It was Carle's first trip to the winner's circle in a stakes since May. His most recent stakes mount, Tidal Surge, is resting after a profitable spring when he won the Jennings and William Donald Schaefer handicaps at Pimlico.
"Billy told me two years ago that he'd win this race with this filly because she'd get the 1 1/4 miles," said Audley manager, Jill Gordon-Moore.
Audley, a farm with an illustrious history, is in the midst of one of its best years in decades. In addition to Night Fax, the stable has campaigned 1995 stakes winner Nellie Custis, who is trained by Turner, and has bred stakes winners Miss Union Avenue and Lilly Capote.
Night Fax is the fourth Maryland-based filly or mare to win the Delaware Handicap in the past five years. The others are Crowned, Brilliant Brass and Green Darlin.