01/25/2002 1:00AM

Veil of Avalon by a nose


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Veil of Avalon proved she is as courageous as she is talented, outgaming a valiant Snow Dance to score a well-deserved nose decision in Friday's $100,000 De La Rose Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Wander Mom finished a neck behind the top pair in one of the most exciting finishes of the meet.

"From where I was watching I didn't think she won," said Christophe Clement, who trains Veil of Avalon for John F. Newsome. "The good news is that she made it. The bad news is that we'll have to meet Snow Dance again somewhere down the road."

Veil of Avalon saved ground to the stretch, eased outside the leaders, and prevailed in a long drive. Snow Dance prompted the pace and gained a slim advantage in late stretch before she was out-nodded at the wire. Wander Mom held the lead briefly in early stretch before succumbing grudgingly to the top pair in the final 40 yards.

Edgar Prado rode Veil of Avalon, who paid $6.60 as the tepid favorite. She covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.06 over a firm course.

In defeat, Snow Dance turned in a huge effort in her first start since Nov. 17. Batique came into the race off a pair of Grade 3 wins, but finished fifth after moving to within striking distance five-wide into the stretch.

Clement said Veil of Avalon might make her next start in the Grade 3 Suwannee River Handicap here March 3.