11/24/2006 12:00AM

Malibu Mint wins Top Flight on DQ


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Malibu Mint was handed a controversial victory by the stewards in Friday's Grade 2, $150,000 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct.

Rahys' Appeal, a 23-1 longshot in the scratched-reduced six-horse field, rallied past Malibu Mint in midstretch and finished three lengths in front of that rival at the wire. But the whip of Alan Garcia, the rider of Rahys' Appeal, inadvertently struck Malibu Mint, under Eibar Coa, around the eighth pole. Coa lodged an objection and the stewards disqualified Rahys' Appeal from first and placed her second.

While many believe that a whip to the face is automatic grounds for disqualification, that is not the case. The rules state that a horse should be disqualified "if a jockey willingly strikes another horse or jockey" with the whip. The Aqueduct stewards did not deem Garcia's actions as willful, but they did determine it cost Malibu Mint a chance to win.

Malibu Mint, coming out of a 12th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, raced up close to the pace established by Yolanda B. Too and prompted by favored Mo Cuishle, who would eventually fade to last. Malibu Mint rallied three wide entering the turn and took a short lead from Yolanda B. Too approaching the quarter pole after running six furlongs in 1:11.14.

Rahys' Appeal, who stumbled at the start, put in a three-wide move around the turn to gain contention. Rahys' Appeal was going past Malibu Mint when Garcia's left-handed whip struck Malibu Mint in the face. Malibu Mint finished second, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Miss Shop before the disqualification. The final time for the mile was 1:36.15 over a good main track and Malibu Mint returned $10.20 to win.

"That's not the way you like to win them, but we'll take it," said Jim Chapman, who trains Malibu Mint for John and Martha Mulholland.

Mallory Mort, the farm manager for Gallagher's Stud, which owns Rahys' Appeal, said the disqualification was "extremely disappointing," considering it would have been the first graded stakes victory for the 4-year-old New York-bred daughter of Rahy, trained by Tom Bush.

"This filly was really on top of her game," Mort said. "Tommy had her just right. She worked super a few days ago; she looked strong. With the pedigree this filly's got, getting a graded win would really boost her value."