03/29/2008 12:00AM

Jay Peg and his jockey hold on

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - On paper, Jay Peg wasn't even the top horse from his own stable in the Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba on Saturday night, but Jay Peg not only beat stablemate Linngari, he beat all 15 rivals in a strange, thrilling edition of the $5 million Duty Free.

Jay Peg beat the top-class French filly Darjina by a half-length despite jockey Anton Marcus nearly falling off. Marcus' saddle began slipping about 300 yards from the finish, and after crossing the wire on top, Marcus came completely out of his stirrups, and needed all his skill and strength just to keep from going down.

"I was more concerned that I was going to fall off than with the opposition," Marcus said.

Jay Peg broke from post 14, barely drawn better than stablemate Linngari, who had been a tough-luck second in this race last year. But where Linngari comes from off the pace, Jay Peg was sent to the front by design, crossing over to take a clear early lead. There he stayed, until the equipment problems nearly derailed his chances. As Jay Peg drifted out, with Marcus trying to maintain his balance, horses passed him on the inside and outside, and Jay Peg appeared to be done.

But somehow the horse found another gear, re-rallied in the last furlong, and was home by a half-length. He paid $75.20.

"He enjoys a fight," said Marcus, whose older brother is part of a South African partnership that owns Jay Peg. "It suited me when they came at me on both sides."

Jay Peg, a multiple Group 1 winner back in South Africa, won for the first time in three starts this winter in Dubai, and his time of 1:46.20 for about 1 1/8 miles was a course record.

"Horses that run a peak race early in the [winter racing] Carnival aren't going to win races on the World Cup night," said South African trainer Herman Brown, who has based in Dubai for several years, but won his first World Cup race. "He's obviously kept improving."

Darjina rallied well between horses to the finish, which pleased jockey Christophe Soumillon, who thought Darjina would have benefited from a prep race she did not get.

A nose back in third was the race's toughest-luck horse, Archipenko, who came flying late, and could have given trainer Mike de Kock three wins on the night had he gotten a better trip.

"I never had a clean run at all," said jockey Kevin Shea. "He wouldn't go between horses. With a better trip, I think he might have won."