08/04/2001 12:00AM

Keemoon wins Honey Fox (again)


DEL MAR, Calif. - Keemoon successfully defended her title in the $76,200 Honey Fox Handicap at Del Mar on Friday, holding off the late rally of Bucarest, a South American import making her U.S. debut.

Trained by Neil Drysdale and ridden by Gary Stevens, Keemoon ($3.60) ran 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:13.96, winning by a neck. Bucarest, a Group 3 winner in Brazil last year, was beaten a neck and finished a half-length in front of Nepenthe in the field of eight fillies and mares.

Keemoon was fourth for the first mile, as many as six lengths behind the longshot pacesetter Nuit de Siam. With a wide rally, Keemoon took the lead quickly on the final turn and led by as much as a length in the stretch. She was all out to hold off Bucarest, the second 5-2 choice.

Keemoon has won five stakes in the last year - the 2000 Honey Fox and Waya Handicap at Hollywood Park. This year, she has won three stakes, including the Reloy Handicap at Santa Anita and the Grade 3 Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland in April.

A 5-year-old, Keemoon was second in the Grade 3 Yerba Buena Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on May 12, her last start before Friday. Keemoon was held out of the Estrapade Stakes at Hollywood Park last month in favor of the Honey Fox.