LAUREL -- While Gala Prospector tries following in her brother's footsteps, another horse with Maryland connections will attempt to gain even greater prominence today.
Gala Prospector, 2-for-2 lifetime and a half-sister to Gala Spinaway, could be the betting favorite when today's Cameo Stakes is run at Laurel Race Course. Some 1,000 miles south and an hour later, Dash For Dotty and 11 other 3-year-olds begin the road to the Triple Crown in the $300,000 Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah.
Gala Spinaway, the top Maryland-bred 3-year-old last year, is one year older than his sister. Gregg McCarron is the regular rider for both.
"She's got quite a bit of potential and I suppose she could eventually be as good as her brother," said McCarron. "If there's one thing that might not be ideal about today, it's that she's coming back so quick -- she ran just [eight days] ago. But Bernie [Bond] has been training a long time, so I'm sure he knows what he's doing."
Dash For Dotty, meanwhile, is a highly improved gelding who should be one of the favorites in the 1 1/8 -mile Flamingo. He started his career in obscure fashion at Maryland tracks, but a searing late run for second place in his last race, the Everglades at Hialeah, has focused attention on him. Bill Donovan, the Marylander who gained national recognition with Lost Code in 1987 and 1988, has shipped Dash For Dotty south for the winter with the rest of his stable.
The Flamingo was long one of Florida's crucial Kentucky Derby preps before Hialeah was forced to close in late 1989 because of slumping business. Although the race has since gained a less strategic position on the Derby trail, that it is being run is testament to the revival that Hialeah has mounted since reopening Nov. 10.
The Flamingo will be simulcast to Laurel and the Pimlico intertack outlet as the final event on an 11-race card. One of the best races on the card has Absolutely Great going for her third win in as many Laurel starts.
"She's training better than ever," said trainer Eddie Gaudet. "I was thinking about working her and just running in the stakes next week [the Francis Scott Key on Jan. 11], but it's been too long since her last race [Dec. 1]. So we're running, then she'll wheel right back in the stake, and then I'll lighten up a little and go in the Barbara Fritchie [on Feb. 15]."
Absolutely Great would likely meet Silver Tango in the Francis Scott Key. Silver Tango is 7-for-7 lifetime in sprints, but Mike Luzzi, who rides both fillies, has committed to Absolutely Great. Edgar Prado would pick up the mount on Silver Tango.
NOTES: Ameri Valay, ridden by Mark Johnston, cruised past Fight Writer in mid-stretch and won yesterday's Laurel feature. King Leatherbury claimed Ameri Valay from the race for owner Nick Bassford for $35,000. . . . Jockey Rafael Pena has been suspended 7 days for a riding infraction Wednesday. The penalty is scheduled to start tomorrow. . . . Owner/trainer Gene Breeden has been barred indefinitely from racetrack property after failing to answer charges of hidden ownership. . . . Apprentice Charles Fenwick III is scheduled to return to riding Thursday, said his new agent, Bobby Suggs.