08/11/2008 12:00AM

Azul Leon takes Best Pal on DQ

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By JAY PRIVMAN

DEL MAR, Calif. - Azul Leon on Sunday remained undefeated and retained his position as the leading 2-year-old male in California, but in order to keep both, he needed the help of the stewards following a rough stretch run in the Grade 2, $150,000 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.

Azul Leon ($5.60) finished second, a nose behind Kelly Leak, but the stewards moved Kelly Leak back to fourth, ruling he was the culprit in a chain-reaction bumping match nearing the finish that also included Coronet of a Baron, who crossed the wire third, and Charlie’s Moment, who took up sharply in deep stretch and crossed the wire fourth.

“You love to win, but you hate to win under these circumstances,” said Doug O’Neill, who trains Azul Leon for Joseph Lacombe.

Azul Leon, under Rafael Bejarano, was last in the eight-horse field for the first half-mile of the race. He first attempted to rally widest of all at the top of the stretch, but when Kelly Leak, under Victor Espinoza, drifted out, Bejarano tried to bring Azul Leon between horses. Kelly Leak then came back in, crowding Azul Leon, who in turn put pressure on Charlie’s Moment from the outside while Coronet of a Baron came out from the inside.

Kelly Leak was timed in 1:16.73 for 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack. Azul Leon finished three-quarters of a length in front of Coronet of a Baron, who was 1 3/4 lengths in front of Charlie’s Moment.

Azul Leon is now 3 for 3, his previous victories coming against maidens at Hollywood Park on May 8 and in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 5.