BALTIMORE, SEPT. 26 -- Bea Quality, next to last halfway through today's five-furlong E. Palmer Heagerty Stakes, circled the field en route to a half-length victory over Rocket Guitar at Pimlico Race Course.

Fewer than three lengths separated the first nine finishers in a field of 10. With a herd of horses charging on the turf toward the finish line, jockey Vince Bracciale Jr. had Bea Quality clear on the far outside. With hearty right-handed urging, he rode the 5-year-old gelding to a $29,445 victory in 58 1/5 seconds. Lil Saucy, who had led by nearly a length in midstretch, weakened to third, a neck back and another neck in front of Van's Anchor.

Tropical Whip, who finished a half-length behind Van's Anchor, got the worst of the stampede finish. After breaking poorly, he advanced into contention under Michael Hunter, and by the eighth-mile pole was making an inside bid while Bea Quality rallied outside. But Tropical Whip was halted in tight quarters behind Rocket Guitar and jockey Jeff Lloyd, with Van's Anchor flanked to his left and the tiring Lil Saucy on his right.

Bea Quality, who paid $13.60, became the second horse to win a stakes after an undistinguished performance in the Polynesian Handicap two weeks ago. Little Bold John, last in the Polynesian, emerged to take the $200,000 Budweiser Maryland Classic last Saturday.