03/06/2004 1:00AM

Laurel: He Loves Me up late

Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
He Loves Me rallied to defeat a tiring favorite in Laurel's Wide Country.

Pawyne Princess, sent off at 1-5 after her 8 1/4-length maiden victory at six furlongs, failed in her bid to stretch out to 1 1/16 miles in the Wide Country at Laurel, finishing third.

After sitting just off the pace set by Spirited Game, Pawyne Princess, ridden by Jeremy Rose, made her move on the turn and had a two-length lead at the eighth pole, looking like a winner.

But the effort had taken its toll, and Pawyne Princess was tiring as He Loves Me approached on the outside and Via Sacra came up along the rail. He Loves Me was the first to pass the favorite, winning by three-quarters of a length over the 44-1 Via Sacra, who got up to finish second, a neck in front of Pawyne Princess.

He Loves Me ($10.60), trained by Richard Small, finished in a time of 1:47.27. The 4-3 exacta paid $314.60.

"I have no idea what happened," said Jerry Robb, trainer of Pawyne Princess, after the race. "The way she ran the first time, I expected her to come back and do the same thing. I had her fit. I'm shocked."