04/03/2004 1:00AM

Peace Rules takes Oaklawn Handicap

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Jeff Coady
Peace Rules drives to a two-length victory under Jerry Bailey in the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Peace Rules, who was a gritty winner of the New Orleans Handicap in February, turned in another game performance Saturday in the Grade 2, $500,000 , when he drove to a two-length win over Ole Faunty.

It was another neck back in third to pacesetter Saint Liam.

Peace Rules broke sharp in the mile and an eighth race, while Saint Liam took the early lead, and went wide into the first turn, carrying Peace Rules out with him. Saint Liam went on to set brisk fractions of 22.20 seconds for the opening quarter, 45.46 seconds for the half-mile mark, and 1:09.62 for six furlongs, all while under pressure from Peace Rules.

Into the stretch, Peace Rules overtook Saint Liam, and went on to cover the distance in 1:48.26.

"This probably could be one of his best races, if not his best," said Bobby Frankel, who trains Peace Rules for Edmund Gann.

Jerry Bailey rode Peace Rules, and the win was the second straight Oaklawn Handicap score for Bailey, as well as Frankel and Gann, who teamed to win the race last year with Medaglia d'Oro. Overall, Bailey has won the Oaklawn Handicap four times, with his other winners being Cigar in 1995, and Geri in 1996.

Peace Rules paid $3.60 as the 4-5 favorite. The remaining order of finish was Sonic West, Sir Cherokee and Private Emblem.

Peace Rules earned $300,000 for the win, which was his eighth in 16 career starts.

A 4-year-old son of Jules, his earnings now stand at $2,739,900. Peace Rules won the New Orleans Handicap by a head over Saint Liam one start before the Oaklawn Handicap.

Frankel said he did not have a specific race picked out next for Peace Rules, but said a possibility is the Grade 2, $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs on June 19.

The Oaklawn Handicap shared a card with the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap, and together the races marked the start of the annual Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn. The festival is comprised of nine stakes over the final six days of the meet at Oaklawn.

Attendance on Saturday was 31,076, while handle on the 12-race card was a meet-high $8,378,386.