Jockey Joe Rocco, given a seven-day suspension yesterday for his ride that resulted in Noblest Heart's first-place disqualification in the Davona Dale Handicap at Laurel Sunday, immediately appealed the stewards' ruling to the Maryland Racing Commission.

Rocco defended his actions in the $75,000 race, in which Noblest Heart was lowered to second place for impeding Double Bunctious on the far turn. Double Bunctious, which rallied within a head of Noblest Heart after being checked sharply by Edgar Prado, was given the victory, her second straight in the Davona Dale.

The stewards' decision brought a $32,660 swing in purses, the difference between first and second. Noblest Heart's trainer, Donald Barr, said neither he nor the filly's owner, Jim Lewis, would appeal.

"It looked like {Noblest Heart} was one stride from being clear," Barr said. "I can't fault {Rocco}. You'd rather have him riding hard than not riding hard, but . . . I think the stewards made a good decision."

Rocco was less understanding, and by mid-afternoon he was seeking a stay of suspension. He has one seven-day suspension on appeal from a riding infraction at Pimlico this spring, but said he disputes the latest call more strongly.

Double Bunctious took the lead into the far turn of the race, at which point Noblest Heart began accelerating on the outside. Mark Johnston steadied Peruse as Noblest Heart went by, and midway through the turn Prado twice yanked the reins of Double Bunctious as Noblest Heart angled in front of her. There was no contact.

"I made it tight on him {Prado}, which is my job," Rocco said. He said Prado's second restraint of Double Bunctious "was just to dramatize it, to make it really look good."

Prado, reluctant to discuss the call, said, "I took a hold of my horse because I was close to clipping heels."

Rocco's suspension, if it begins as scheduled Saturday, would choke his chances of leading a meet in victories for the first time. He began yesterday's card trailing Johnston by one victory, but ended the day six behind.Chalk Up Five More

Apprentice Johnston entrenched himself as the nation's leading rider by winning five races yesterday, the third time he has done so in his career. He won with his final four mounts -- including Fighting Brass ($7.20) in the $19,000 feature -- and was five of six overall. Johnston, 19, has 233 victories for the year; he retains his apprenticeship through July 25. . . .

Half Lit, a half-brother to stakes-winner Flaming Emperor, won a race for 2-year-old maidens yesterday with a dramatic reversal of form. The dark colt, beaten by 24 lengths at 100-to-1 odds in his one previous start, led from the first step yesterday and had enough to outlast Low Maintenance for the victory. He paid $75.80, third-largest win mutuel of the meeting. . . .

Laurel announced it will simulcast Sunday's $250,000-added New Hampshire Sweepstakes from Rockingham Park. The nine-furlong turf race will include Maryland-bred grass champion Ten Keys, to be ridden by Craig Perret.