LAUREL -- Just days before its focus shifts to the royally bred horses of its annual Turf Festival, Laurel Race Course yesterday offered the Queen Isabella Handicap as a lead-in.
Crowned would have been an appropriate winner, given her name and her assignment as high-weight in a field of eight fillies and mares. But after Dixie Accent moved through a tight opening along the rail, she was able to run down Crowned, ridden by Rick Wilson, in the final 110 yards.
"You let her through the ---- hole," Wilson said angrily to fellow jockey Alberto Delgado upon unsaddling.
Delgado, who rode Wait For the Lady, shot back that he had no other choice -- and besides, Wilson also had allowed Dixie Accent to come up the rail.
Indeed, with a quarter-mile left in the 1 1/8 -mile event, Wait For the Lady began tiring on the lead, as Crowned, poised outside her, went past. At that point, Delgado tried to keep Dixie Accent from passing inside, but Santos Chavez deftly guided her through. Before Crowned got more than the requisite 1 1/2 lengths clear, Dixie Accent was threatening to pass on the inside lane.
And that she did, finishing one length ahead in 1 minute, 50 3/5 seconds on a fast track. Etiquette finished six lengths behind Crowned in third and Noblest Heart, the 2.10-1 favorite, was fourth.
Dixie Accent, owned by Bayard Sharp and trained by Charlie Peoples, was the race's longest shot at 28-1. The 4-year-old filly is a half-sister to Harriman, a former stakes runner for the Sharp-Peoples connection.
Crowned conceded the winner 11 pounds (119-108), prompting Sharp to say: "That's what did it."
The Queen Isabella was the unofficial first day of Turf Festival week. The $750,000 Budweiser International, which highlights the five-race Festival, will be held Saturday along with the track's two $200,000 races for 2-year-olds, the Laurel Futurity and Selima Stakes. The next day, the $300,000 All Along Stakes and $250,000 Laurel Dash will be run.
Some horses already have been shipped to Laurel for the Festival, although many are not scheduled to arrive until today or later. Ten of the 14 probable starters in the International will come from Europe or California.
Miss Josh, the Laurel-based mare who will be a strong favorite in the All Along, is scheduled to work five furlongs on the turf this morning.