07/21/2001 11:00PM

Irving's Baby scores at 18-1 in Del Cap


STANTON, Del. - Irving's Baby pulled an 18-1 upset Sunday in the $600,300 Delaware Handicap, leading all the way under Ramon Dominguez to give trainer Todd Pletcher his second major triumph of the weekend with a filly at a classic distance.

Irving's Baby, owned by the Anstu Stable of Anita and Stuart Sobotnik, won Delaware Park's signature race by 3 3/4 lengths over a determined Under the Rug. The winner wrested command from Lazy Slusan soon after the start of the 1 1/4-mile fixture, gliding through fractions of 24.42 seconds, 49.40 and 1:14.04. Down the stretch, Irving's Baby finally put away Lazy Slusan, then edged clear from a steady late run by Under the Rug.

Lazy Slusan, the 121-pound highweight, finished third, while Jostle, the 9-10 favorite in a field of six fillies and mares, failed to fire from mid-pack, finishing fourth. Lady Melesi and Humble Clerk completed the order of finish.

Saturday, Pletcher won the 1 1/2-mile Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont with another longshot, Tweedside. Pletcher, who was busy preparing his large stable for the move to Saratoga on Monday, sent assistant John Hassett to saddle Irving's Baby. "It's been a good, long weekend," said Hassett, pun fully intended.

Irving's Baby, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old by Quiet American, won three minor stakes at Laurel last winter, then lost her next three starts. "For her best effort, she needs to make every pole a winning one and a lot of ground," said Hassett. "Everything lined up just right for her today."

Irving's Baby, carrying 113 pounds, paid $38 after finishing in 2:05.21 over a fast track. It was the slowest Del Cap clocking since 1988. The $360,000 winner's share lifted her bankroll to nearly $600,000.

The Grade 3 Delaware 'Cap, which attracted an estimated crowd of 15,000, was the third major triumph this year for the Sobotniks, who live in Millville, N.Y., and rank among Pletcher's top clients. Earlier this year, the stable's Balto Star captured the $600,000 Spiral Stakes and $500,000 Arkansas Derby.

The victory was the richest in the career of Dominguez, a 24-year-old native of Venezuela. Dominguez rides regularly in Maryland and Delaware.

Under the Rug, attempting to give Christiana Stables a fifth Del Cap winner, "gave me everything she had, but I've got to hand it to the winner," said jockey Mark Johnston. "She had the right trip."

Jostle "never had a straw in her path," when incurring her sixth straight defeat, said jockey Jerry Bailey.

Beautiful Pleasure was scratched two days before the Del Cap to run instead in the July 29 Go for Wand Stakes at Saratoga. Kris Pit also was an early scratch, leaving the field of six.

The 8-4 exacta paid $153.20 and the 8-4-7 trifecta paid $897.60.