LAUREL -- When Louisiana oil man John Franks bought the mare Wood So a few weeks ago, he offered her owner-trainer, Katy Voss, a little incentive.
Win the Barbara Fritchie Handicap, and he'd pay more.
That's exactly what happened.
After selling her for approximately $250,000, Voss carefully prepared the mare for the handicap and even got jockey Mario Pino to work her out a few days before the race. "That's something I don't usually do," Pino said.
The extra effort paid off.
Wood So, confident as well as quick, won the $200,000 stakes -- the richest race of her career -- and also gave Pino and Voss their biggest paydays.
Virtually under a hand ride, the mare overtook pace-setter Improper Princess, who got the lead despite being left at the start, and then simply outran Wide Country to the wire.
Santos Chavez went to the whip on the final turn, but couldn't get Wide Country into a challenging position.
The result confirmed what Bob Camac, Wide Country's trainer, had been saying all week: His filly couldn't spot Wood So 7 pounds and expect to beat her.
The wet track, which favors speed horses, also worked in Wood So's favor.
"I don't think the weight made a difference," Voss said. "You could have added a couple of more pounds and the result would have been the same. My mare is just quicker at seven furlongs."
Wood So, sent off the 9-5 favorite over Wide Country at 2-1 odds, won by 1 3/4 lengths, although Pino had just about pulled her up at the wire. Wood So paid $5.20, $2.60 and $2.20. Wide Country returned $2.60 and $2.20 and third-place finisher Wait For The Lady paid $3.20.
Wood So ran the seven furlongs in 1 minute, 24 2/5 seconds, the slowest Barbara Fritchie in five years, but Pino never put much pressure on her although he hit her a few times in the stretch.
It has been 17 years since Voss won back-to-back runnings of the Barbara Fritchie with Twixt, the mare that established Voss' training career.
"But this mare is not like Twixt, who was a big, strong, long-striding tough horse," Voss said. "Wood So is more short-strided, like a little cat. She can explode with a burst of speed."
Voss is uncertain about Wood So's future. She hopes Franks keeps her in her barn for another race, possibly the Conniver Handicap on March 8 at Laurel. She said Franks wants to stretch Wood So out to a route, with the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 17 a possibility.
Voss said she will be sad to see the mare go. "But a deal's a deal," she said. "After all, she is his horse."
NOTES: The condition of jockey Bob McKnight, who fell at Laurel Friday, has been upgraded from serious to fair, according to a spokesman at the Shock Trauma Unit of the University of Maryland Hospital. Jockey Larry Saumell, a friend of McKnight, visited him last night. . . . Three local fillies -- His Ginger, Squirm and Saturday Affair -- race in today's Busher Stakes at Aqueduct. . . . Franks, the nation's leading owner in 1983 and 1984, currently owns about 400 horses. Voss owned Wood So in partnership with Laurel track owner Bob Manfuso.