05/29/2010 12:00AM

Encaustic goes wire to wire in Joe French

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Encaustic got away with leisurely fractions early, then repelled a stretch challenge from Alma d Oro to win Saturday s $50,000 Joe French Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park.

A 6-year-old based in Maryland with trainer Mark Shuman, Encaustic ($9.20) had done his best work in West Virginia last season, winning the Labor Day and the Mountaineer Mile at Mountaineer Racetrack. This year, he won back-to-back optional claimers in front-running fashion at Laurel Park before he was checked and never able to display his customary early speed in last month s $1 million Charles Town Classic.

Breaking from the outside post in a field reduced to five by four scratches, Encaustic was sent to the front by jockey Justin Shepherd and opened up by as many as three lengths while setting fractions of 24.68 seconds, 48.29, and 1:12.73 in the mile and 70-yard-race. Alma d Oro, under Shane Sellers, threatened in the stretch, but Encaustic battled back and refused to fold, winning by a half-length in 1:41.90.

Secret Getaway finished third, a nose in front of Harlem Rocker, the 8-5 favorite.