Updated on 09/16/2011 6:42AM

Crash Course wins Mac Diarmida

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Crash Course rallied past Unite's Big Red and Eltawaasul to win the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida Handicap by one-half length on Sunday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Jerry Bailey may not have had Crash Course where he had hoped early in Sunday's $100,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap at Gulfstream Park, but he certainly guided him to where he wanted late.

The pedestrian pace of the Mac Diarmida prohibited Bailey from taking Crash Course way off the pace as trainer Jimmy Croll had instructed. Instead, Bailey kept the 6-year-old gelding behind horses in mid-pack before swinging him in the clear turning for home and rallying Crash Course past a stubborn Unite's Big Red and Eltawaasul to win the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida by one-half length. Unite's Big Red, the 2000 Mac Diarmida winner, nosed out Eltawaasul for second.

With Eltawaasul - prompted by Unite's Big Red - set early fractions of 26.24 seconds, 52.31 and 1:17.92, Bailey had Crash Course within three lengths of the lead, but saving ground along in the inside. Approaching the quarter pole, Bailey had Crash Course in fourth behind Eltawaasul, Unite's Big Red and Pleasant Divorce. When Pleasant Divorce drifted out turning for home, it left the opening Bailey needed. Once in the clear, Crash Course wore the leaders down in the final yards.

Crash Course, a 6-year-old son of Holy Bull, covered the 1 3/8-miles over firm turf in 2:16.27. He returned $7.60 as the 5-2 favorite.

"I thought we could go 1:19 as slow as everybody was going with no pace in the race," Bailey said. "I just thought wherever he settled, if he wanted to creep up on them at anytime I was going to let him if I had the space to do it. When you go that slow whoever's in front is going to have some kick when you get to him. It took him a while, but he's a horse that comes from way back so he's not going to give you that instant burst."

The top three horses could all come back in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb.16.