02/21/2004 1:00AM

Private Emblem always delivers best at Oaklawn


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Private Emblem continued his pattern of running the biggest races of his career at Oaklawn Park when he drove to a 1 3/4-length win over favored Pie N Burger in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Essex Handicap before a crowd of 18,307.

Private Emblem ($19.40) is perfect at Oaklawn, winning all four races he has run over the track. His biggest win came in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby in 2002. He also won a division of the $100,000 Southwest in 2002 and an allowance in 2003.

Private Emblem raced alongside pacesetter Pie N Burger through fractions of 24 seconds for the opening quarter and 48 seconds for the half-mile mark. Private Emblem took over in the stretch and went on to cover 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.66

Tim Doocy rode the winner for trainer Steve Asmussen and owners James Cassels and Bob Zollars. Private Emblem earned $60,000 for the win, which was his seventh from 22 career starts, to boost his career bankroll to $769,103.

Crafty Shaw, who was off a step slow, launched a bid on the final turn of the Essex but could not overtake the leaders and finished third, four lengths behind Pie N Burger.