LAUREL -- The two favorites in yesterday's Find Handicap at Laurel Race Course looked so imposing that only two of their five original opponents chose to go against them.
Either Baron de Vaux (7-10) or Master Speaker (6-5) was supposed to win the 1 1/8 -mile turf race for Maryland-breds, so trainers of three horses scratched their runners. Only the connections of Rebuff and Rum And Gold chose to stay in the race.
"I kept thinking I might scratch him, but then I thought I might get lucky," said Rum And Gold's trainer, Art Willson.
With a little luck and a skillful ride from Alberto Delgado, Rum And Gold upset the favorites and paid $31.60 as longest shot in a field of four. The 4-year-old colt won by a half-length over Master Speaker, running the distance in 1 minute, 54 4/5 seconds. Baron de Vaux was another four lengths back in third.
Into the first turn, Baron de Vaux led on a slow pace. When he continued to race wide, and Rebuff and Master Speaker followed him, Delgado guided Rum And Gold to the rail.
"At the five-eighths pole, it felt like we were going so slow," Delgado said. "So I just shot him through on the rail, and before you knew it, the wire was right in front of us."
Mike Luzzi, on Master Speaker, said: "With the turf soft, the rail was supposed to be dead, and my horse likes the outside anyway. But the winner stayed on the rail and sure got the best trip."
Baron de Vaux, a 3-year-old racing against three older horses, was making only his second start on the turf. "He stumbled bad at the start," said his rider, Joe Rocco. "I looked down and saw that he tore the heck out of his quarter [hoof]."
For Rum And Gold, the Find marked his first stakes victory since he won the Inner Harbor Stakes on Dec. 31, 1988. It was only his second victory in his past 23 starts. Willson said to owner-breeder Richard Rose as they entered the winner's circle: "I guess he liked the soft turf."
The Find was the last of eight live races at Laurel; simulcasts of all seven Breeders' Cup races followed. The track handled $2,687,598 on the 15-race program, down 20 percent from last year.