07/08/2003 11:00PM

Tough weekend for favorites

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Three odds-on favorites were defeated in stakes races here last weekend.

In Friday's $35,000 Graduation for 2-year-olds, second choice Noble Halo used his natural speed to open up a lead early on favored Alberta shipper Ponoka and never looked back.

Noble Halo accomplished this despite having gotten loose the day before the race. He wore his shoes off in a run against traffic down the nearby perimeter highway.

Noble Halo, trained by Emile Corbel, had new shoes on for Friday's race, in which he opened up three lengths early and set fractions of 22.20 seconds for a quarter-mile and 46.80 for a half-mile before increasing his margin to six lengths in the stretch.

At the wire he was 3 1/2 lengths in front of the rallying Ponoka, who took the place by two lengths over Warmfuzzyfeelin.

Noble Halo, ridden by Michael Iammarino, paid $5.30 and completed the 5 1/2-furlong distance in 1:07.

Saturday, Pete's Surprise made use of a good trip along the rail to win the restricted $35,000 R.C. Anderson Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile.

The Peteski filly rated inside, just behind the pacesetting favorite, Air Driver, who set fractions of 23.20, 49, and 1:15.80 before tiring in the stretch and giving way to the winner.

Ridden by Ken Hendricks and trained by Jack Robertson, Pete's Surprise drew away to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Air Driver, who bested Where's Red by three-quarters of a length for third.

Pete's Surprise paid $9.80 as the second choice and completed one mile in 1:43.60.

In Sunday's restricted $20,000 North Dakota Derby for 3-year-olds at one mile, My Friend Frank engaged in a suicidal speed duel with heavily favored Suntana and helped set the race up for second choice Maddies Blues.

Trained by Ralph Buchholz and ridden by Travis Hightower, Maddies Blues had a dream trip in the race, stalking a duel from the inside behind fractions of 23, 47, and 1:15 before opening up into the stretch and drawing off to win by six lengths, completing the distance in 1:44.40.

Upagainssthewall rallied for second, three lengths ahead of Double Bid.

Suntana won the duel but tired in the stretch to finish fourth, 3 3/4 lengths behind Double Bid. My Friend Frank faded to last.

Maddies Blues paid $9.