05/17/2002 12:00AM

Vesta all the way in Miss Preakness


The Grade 3, $100,000 Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Thursday was loaded with speed, and trainer Joseph Aquilino wanted Vesta to rate. Vesta did nothing of the sort. She jumped to the lead right out of the gate and scorched a first quarter in 22.26 seconds. "She's going too fast," Aquilino said, wincing.

But the headstrong Vesta never let up. She led every step of the way to win in a final time of 1:10.25, holding off the late charge of Willa on the Move. A New Twist, the 7-5 favorite, finished fifth in the field of six.

In the winner's circle, Mario Pino, the squeaky-clean winning jockey, beamed.

"The whole strategy went out the window when she broke," Pino said. "When she left the gate she was two in front, and I said there's no strategy anymore. Let's go."

It was the third straight win for Vesta, who is owned Five K Farm, and her first graded stakes victory. Her record now stands at five wins from 10 starts, and the win ran her earnings to $179,734.

The third choice in the short field, Vesta paid $7.40 to win and keyed a $35.60 exacta. The $2 trifecta paid $106.20.

Aquilino said he will likely ship Vesta back to his New York base.