07/20/2001 11:00PM

Zonk! $61 horse wins Oaks


STANTON, Del. - Owner Rick Porter and trainer John Servis were braced for a big weekend at Delaware Park, mostly because they had one of the major contenders in Sunday's Delaware Handicap, Jostle.

But they made an unexpected early impact Saturday when Zonk, overlooked at 29-1, rallied under Mike McCarthy to capture the $261,000, Grade 3 Delaware Oaks. She paid $61 after finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.27 over a fast track.

Mystic Lady, the 5-2 second choice in a field of 11 3-year-old fillies, finished second, a length behind Zonk and another 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Lady Andromeda. Caressing, the 7-5 favorite, was never a factor and finished seventh.

McCarthy deftly maneuvered Zonk into a terrific inside stalking trip after breaking from post 9.

"Everything opened up at just the right time," said McCarthy, the leading rider at Delaware in each of the last five years. "Once she got straightened out, she really kicked in."

Zonk finished second in two stakes at 2 before fracturing a hind pastern when finishing third as the favorite in the Kentucky Cup at Turfway Park in September. After returning in May, Zonk won two races before finishing a well-beaten eighth in the Grade 1 Mother Goose.

"She was in a little over her head there," said Servis.

A win by Jostle in the Delaware Handicap would make Porter and Servis the first owner or trainer to sweep Delaware's two best races the same year. Both races date to the late 1930's.

Before an estimated ontrack crowd of 8,000, longshots Hunka Hunka Lori Z and Lady Andromeda set the early fractions in the 1 1/16-mile Delaware Oaks. Turning for home, Mystic Lady, having benefitted from a nice stalking trip under Jerry Bailey, swept to the lead from the outside, but Zonk zoomed up the rail and pulled away in the final sixteenth.

"Good effort," said Bailey of Mystic Lady. "I thought I might have it, but the other horse really came to me strong. She was too much for us."

Caressing, the champion 2-year-old of 2000, saved ground throughout, but "she was just uncomfortable," said jockey Pat Day. "She was kind of jostled around down there and never really put forth much of an effort at all."

Zonk, a Kentucky-bred by Farma Way, earned $151,000, more than doubling her bankroll for Porter's Fox Hill Farm. Her record stands at four wins and two seconds from eight starts.

The win mutuel was the highest in the Del Oaks since 1970, when Virginia Cracker returned $153.20.