LAUREL -- Wide Country has a chance today to become the first filly in 22 years to win both the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and the Barbara Fritchie Handicap, probably Maryland's two best-known distaff stakes.
The filly won the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico Race Course last May 17, beating John's Decision by a neck in a slow race. She will be among the favorites in the Fritchie at Laurel Race Course today.
Not since Process Shot pulled off the feat in the spring of 1969 and the winter of 1970, has a filly won both races. Previously, Holly-O won the two stakes in 1966 and 1967.
"It's also the third time I've run in the race," trainer Bob Camac said last night, "and I have yet to win it."
Four years ago, Camac saddled the Fritchie favorite, Cagey Exuberance, but she didn't hit the board.
"I had brought Jose Santos in to ride her," Camac recalled. "He can be a brilliant jockey, but he used poor judgment that day. He had my filly eight horses wide with a half-mile to go and got beat four lengths. Tappiano hugged the rail and won."
Camac's one other Barbara Fritchie starter, Nuit D'Amour, is also listed as an also-ran.
The Fritchie was upgraded from a Grade III to a Grade II stakes this year, but has drawn one of its lightest fields in years. The four high weights are all locals.
Those weights, and not the competition, have been the focal point of pre-race debate. Both Camac and trainer Gary Capuano have complained about the light weight assigned Wood So. That mare, winner of four of her past five starts, carries 113 pounds, 7 fewer than Wide Country and 1 more than Capuano's filly, Silver Tango.
Camac said he will still probably run Wide Country, since there "really isn't any other place right now to run her except in handicaps."
Capuano said yesterday, "I've been moaning about the weight, but I'll probably be screaming if the finish is close and we're beaten by Wood So."
Silver Tango spotted Wood So 3 pounds in their last start and was beaten by seven lengths. But tomorrow there is only a 1-pound spread between the two horses.
The only jockey in the lineup who has previously won the race is Albert Delgado. He rides Wait For The Lady. Delgado won the Barbara Fritchie in 1983 with Stellarette.
In other Laurel news, jockey Bob McKnight was listed in "serious, but stable" condition in the Shock Trauma Unit at the University of Maryland Hospital yesterday after being stepped on by another horse after he fell from his mount, Never Wrong, after the finish of yesterday's fifth race.
Never Wrong suddenly collapsed, throwing McKnight toward the rail. Joe Rocco on Tallassee Bandit tried to avoid McKnight, but his horse swerved and hit the jockey in the head.
Rocco also fell, but had no serious injuries and continued to ride on the card. Neither horse was seriously injured.
NOTES: Sunny Sunrise impressed the Laurel clockers yesterday, working three furlongs in 34 3/5 seconds under a tight hold by jockey Larry Reynolds. Sunny Sunrise heads a 13-horse field entered for Monday's General George Stakes. Mike Smith has the mount. . . . Rain, which is forecast today, should not affect the chances of any of the Fritchie favorites. All have performed well on a wet track. . . . Apprentice Charlie Fenwick canceled his Laurel mounts today to ride Logan's Mist in a stakes at Garden State Park for trainer Frannie Campitelli. . . . Camac expects long shot Improper Princess to set the pace in the Fritchie. The filly started her career in a $10,500 claimer at Philadelphia Park. "That filly has the biggest set of knees around," Camac said. "Everyone up here [in Philadelphia] was afraid to claim her. But she has some ability."
Barbara Fritchie Handicap
What: A Grade II race for fillies and mares 3 and up
Where: Laurel Race Course
When: Today, 11th race, projected post 4:25
Purse: $200,000 guaranteed
Distance: 7 furlongs
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .Track
PP Horse .. .. .. .. ..Wt. Trainer .. Jockey .. .. ..Odds
1 Improper Princess .. 109 D.Bryant ..R.Migliore .. .12-1
2 Wood So .. .. .. .. .113 K.Voss .. .M.Pino .. .. .. 3-1
3 Silver Tango .. .. ..112 G.Capuano .E.Prado .. .. ..7-2
4 Dance Play .. .. .. .110 J.Mazza .. W.Guerra .. .. .8-1
5 Crystal Vous .. .. ..110 E.Papaycik M.Luzzi .. .. .12-1
6 Wide Country .. .. ..120 R.Camac .. S.Chavez .. .. .2-1
7 Wait For The Lady .. 111 K.L'bury ..A.Delgado .. .. 6-1