Scotch Heather surged past four horses in the stretch yesterday to win the $55,325 Carousel Handicap at Laurel by a half-length over Pretty Tricky. The race was marked by a spill at the start, as Smart 'N Quick stumbled out of the gate and threw jockey Alberto Delgado.

Delgado, who only recently recovered from a broken collarbone, was taken to Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital, treated for minor injuries and released.

As Pot Of Antics took the lead into the first turn, track personnel rushed to the aid of Delgado, who lay on his back in front of the grandstand. Ridden by Vince Bracciale Jr., Pot Of Antics retained the lead to just beyond the half-mile pole, where she appeared to take a bad step and was joined by long shot Supper For Two.

As they ran together into the final turn, Allen Stacy had 2-to-1 favorite Kerygma within striking distance. Stacy was waiting to make his move, when he saw the nose of a gray horse out of the corner of his right eye. Thinking it was Scotch Heather, Stacy asked his filly to run.

The nose he saw, however, wasn't Scotch Heather's, but that of the riderless Smart 'N Quick.

"If I'd known it was {Smart 'N Quick}, I probably wouldn't have moved my horse so soon," Stacy said. "I could have waited another 16th of a mile. That might have made a big difference."

Kerygma gave Stacy the move he sought and strode to a two-length advantage turning for home. "At that point," Stacy said, "I thought we could get there."

By the half-furlong pole, it was clear they wouldn't. Scotch Heather, under Mario Pino, angled off the rail and was charging between horses. Pretty Tricky was streaking on the outside under national riding leader Kent Desormeaux. They easily passed Kerygma, and Scotch Heather went on to defeat Pretty Tricky by a half-length. Kerygma held third, a length behind Pretty Tricky.

Scotch Heather had won four stakes races entering the Carousel, but she was assigned only 112 pounds and went off at 14 to 1 odds because of dull recent form. Since her victory in the Lady Baltimore Handicap at Pimlico July 5, she had finished better than third only once in seven starts.

"She needs an off track," said trainer Jack Mobberley, "and, for some reason, this track seemed to have a lot of water in it. When it rains, we call it 'Heather Weather.' "

On a track officially listed as fast, Scotch Heather completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51 4/5, although Pino had to change course into the first turn to stay clear of the loose Smart 'N Quick.

The spill provided an ironic twist in the career of Delgado, who was out two months before he resumed riding Dec. 1. Upon his return, Delgado was concerned about renewing ties with clients; that worry was laid to rest when he rode a stakes victory on his fourth day back.

The winner was Smart 'N Quick.