02/16/2008 1:00AM

Gold and Roses wins Hollie Hughes battle


Even without the top two choices in the race, Saturday's $81,325 Hollie Hughes Handicap at Aqueduct was an entertaining affair, with Gold and Roses outlasting Whistlin' for a three-quarter-length victory. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to Prince of Peace.

The Hollie Hughes went from eight starters to six when the morning-line favorite, Stormin' Normandy, and second choice, Premium Wine, scratched to run in Monday's General George Handicap at Laurel Park.

Gold and Roses broke on top from the outside post under Rajiv Maragh, but was joined to his inside a quarter-mile into the race by Whistlin', who had gotten away slowly under Jermaine Bridgmohan.

The two raced virtually inseparable from the half-mile pole to deep stretch, when Gold and Roses edged clear. Gold and Roses, a 6-year-old gelded son of Gold Token, ran the six furlongs in 1:10.83 and paid $7.90 as the second choice.

"Once he broke so sharp, I took advantage of that," Maragh said. "I tried to get to the rail and keep Whistlin' in my hands. He's a fighter and it turned out to be a great horse race. Whistlin' ran great, too."

It was the 10th win from 34 career starts for Gold and Roses, and the first-place purse of $48,795 pushed his career earnings to $832,965.