Laurel Race Course constituents didn't endorse Ice Hawk in yesterday's $53,825 Congressional Handicap, but the long shot vetoed a bid by Entertain early in the stretch and went on to a four-length victory.

The 5-year-old had beaten only two horses in his previous start -- a $35,000 claiming race -- but yesterday was able to defeat five stakes rivals, paying $49.80. His first victory since the spring was a result of perfect racing luck.

Ice Hawk had led for six furlongs in his previous race, but his chances to get to the front yesterday were unlikely with the presence of Count On Romeo, a sprinter who has raced a half-mile in less than 45 seconds. Going into the Congressional, the predominant question was whether Count On Romeo could carry his speed 1 1/4 miles against the likes of Green Book (2 to 1 favorite) and Entertain (5 to 2).

But that question became moot. Breaking from the outside post under Kelly Castaneda, Count On Romeo didn't dash to his anticipated lead, and his chance for victory choked as he went three-wide into the first turn. By the eighth-mile pole, with the field splashing well in front of him, Count On Romeo was eased.

"I was trying to get him to relax at the start," said Castaneda. "I don't know what happened to him. He just never fired."

Trainer Dave Monaci, who claimed Count On Romeo for $22,500 in October then won a stakes race with him, said, "This horse can go {six furlongs} in 1:09 and change. He's supposed to be able to get the lead anytime he wants. Maybe he didn't like the slop."

Monaci did not discount the possibility of injury or illness.

As Count On Romeo struggled into the backstretch, Ice Hawk moved to the lead under Allen Stacy, with Green Book about a length off his right flank.

"When I saw them go {the first quarter-mile} in :23 3/5," said Ice Hawk's trainer, Joe Devereux, "I thought that might be a little too fast for us. But when they went a half in :49 1/5, I figured we had a shot."

With Stacy successfully slowing the pace, Ice Hawk widened his lead to nearly three lengths over the faltering Green Book into the far turn. At that point, Entertain began his rally.

Although he had broken from the rail, Entertain was three-wide much of the race. "He likes to come from behind," said jockey Vince (Jimbo) Bracciale Jr. "I had to put him somewhere where he could make his run, and the winner was on the rail."

Entertain drew within a neck of Ice Hawk around the final turn, but he got no closer. The easy pace left Ice Hawk with plenty in reserve, and he splashed to victory in 2:05 4/5. Entertain was a length better than His Own for second place.

"It seemed the only way we could win was with a very slow pace," Stacy said. "As things unfolded, I said, 'If they're going to give it to us, we're going to take it.' "

Ice Hawk earned $34,986 for owner Arthur Benjamin of Chevy Chase.

Santa Anita:

In Arcadia, Calif., On The Line, who finished 10th in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, scored a 7 1/2-length victory in the $111,550 Malibu Stakes, the first leg of the Strub Series for 4-year-olds.

Ridden by Angel Cordero Jr., On The Line ($18) held off the late-closing Temperate Sil. The favored Candi's Gold was third.

Masterful Advocate, in his comeback race, finished seventh.