07/27/2002 11:00PM

Disturbingthepeace makes it five straight in Bing Crosby

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The vastly improved Disturbingthepeace won his fifth straight race when he outdueled Freespool in Saturday's $169,000 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar, a Grade 2 race that lost much of its luster when Kona Gold, the defending race champion and morning-line favorite, was withdrawn.

Had Kona Gold stayed in, it would have provided a rematch with an upstart who upset Kona Gold in the seven-furlong Triple Bend Handicap three weeks earlier at Hollywood Park. Instead, Disturbingthepeace found himself the 2-1 favorite against eight rivals in what appeared to be a wide-open race.

The race was dominated by the front-runners. The fleet Freespool flew out of the gate and led through fractions of 22.13 seconds and :44.38 for the opening half-mile. Astonished and Disturbingthepeace were in close attendance, while well-known runners such as D'Wildcat and Men's Exclusive could not keep pace.

Disturbingthepeace collared Freespool with a furlong to go, and though Freespool did not back down, Disturbingthepeace wore him down in the final yards to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:09.21 for six furlongs on the fast main track. He paid $6.60 to win. Mellow Fellow was another two lengths back in third.

Darrell Vienna trains Disturbingthepeace, a 4-year-old gelding by Bold Badgett, for owners David and Rita Milch. Jockey Victor Espinoza was aboard.

"I don't think this was his best race. It was just OK," Vienna said. "Three-quarters is short for him. He had to chase. He's more aggressive when he can make the lead.

"I don't think he beat the real Kona Gold last time," Vienna added. "Kona Gold is a sensational horse. Any time he stays in the barn, I feel better."

Bruce Headley, the trainer and co-owner of Kona Gold, said he scratched his horse because he was upset with his high weight assignment of 124 pounds. Disturbingthepeace carried 116.