07/04/2003 11:00PM

Wildwood Royal strikes again


ALTOONA, Iowa - Wildwood Royal scored her second stakes upset in less than a month at Prairie Meadows, overcoming a pace duel to score a three-quarter-length victory over a closing Golden Reputation in Friday's $125,000 Iowa Oaks.

Under jockey Danush Sukie, Wildwood Royal ($17.40) dueled inside of Tulapai through a quick half-mile run in 45.97 seconds. Wildwood Royal shook off Tulupai entering the stretch and opened up a three-length advantage in midstretch before holding off Golden Reputation's late bid while covering the 1 1/16 miles in a stakes record 1:41.64.

Golden Reputation, who saved ground racing well off the pace in the eight-horse field, finished 2 1/4 lengths clear of Tulupai.

The victory was Wildwood Royal's fourth straight. She started the winning streak at Fairmount Park in a $15,000 handicap on May 26, came here 11 days later to record a gate-to-wire one-length win at 8-1 in the $50,000 Panthers, then returned to Fairmount to take another $15,000 handicap two weeks later.

Jimmy Zook trains Wildwood Royal for owner Bill Stiritz. She has now won 5 of her 10 career starts and has career earnings of $148,400.

Golden Marlin, the even-money favorite in the Oaks, chased the pace for the first half-mile before fading badly to finish seventh, beaten more than 20 lengths. She was ridden by jockey Alex Birzer, who replaced scheduled rider Shane Sellers.

Sellers arrived at Prairie from Kentucky as the horses were in the paddock for the Oaks, causing the rider switch and beginning a bizarre chain of events.

The track's lighting system was turned on just prior to the running of the Oaks, which was the sixth race on the card. The lights all came on but those facing the track on top of the grandstand were operating at approximately 25 percent of their usual strength. The seventh race, a 300-yard dash for Quarter Horses, was contested through the stretch in near darkness.

The horses for the eighth race were held in the paddock an additional 15 minutes as the lighting problem was resolved.

The 10th and final race on the card, a maiden special weight race for 2-year-old Quarter Horses, was canceled after the jockeys refused to ride, citing concern for the horses and their own well being due to a fireworks display at a neighboring amusement park.

The cancellation of the final race didn't seem to bother the large ontrack crowd, most of whom had assembled to see Prairie Meadows's fireworks display.

But, like much of the rest of the night, the fireworks did not go off exactly as planned as a wind shift caused debris from the fireworks to land on the track apron, where thousands of people were watching the show. No serious injuries were reported.