06/20/2005 12:00AM

'Covenant' wins derby at 25-1


CALGARY, Alberta - Knight's Covenant posted a $52.80 upset in the $125,000 Alberta Derby at Stampede Park on Saturday, leading every step of the way under Desmond Bryan.

"He's a little crazy, but he dug in when they came to us at the quarter pole," Bryan said of Knight's Covenant, who had just won his maiden on June 1 after becoming fractious in the gate.

Trainer Monica Russell schooled Knight's Covenant at the gate prior to the Alberta Derby, and she and owner Robert Vargo were rewarded with a $78,750 payday.

Bryan won the Alberta Derby last year with Fly Esteem, who also went wire to wire and paid $83.70.

Saturday's race was contested in a driving rainstorm over a sloppy track. Knight's Covenant set the pace of 23.60 seconds, 48.20, and 1:13.20 while holding off challenges from Dakota Duke and the favorite, Prime Time T. V., in the run down the backstretch.

Knight's Covenant opened a 1 1/2-length advantage at the eighth pole and repulsed a late bid from Blackjack Willy to post a neck victory.

Knight's Covenant completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:48.40 in what turned out to be the final race of the meet.

Sunday's program was canceled after the Elbow River overflowed and flooded the paddock, jockey quarters, and portions of the grandstand. The backstretch was on evacuation alert throughout Saturday night, but the barn area escaped with minimal damage.