LAUREL -- Dontcloseyoureyes wins stakes at just about every track in the tri-state region, except where he's stabled.
The 6-year-old horse became the first Penn National-based runner to win a Maryland stakes this year when he posted a 4 3/4 -length victory yesterday in the $43,225 Maryland City Handicap at Laurel Race Course.
Previously, Dontcloseyoureyes had won stakes at the Charles Town Races and at Philadelphia and Garden State parks, but never in Maryland or on his home grounds at Penn National where his trainer, Mario Beneito, is among the leading horsemen.
The horse's chances were helped considerably yesterday when Blue Wolf, the only other horse noted for his early speed, was scratched from the Laurel lineup.
Dontcloseyoureyes outran slight favorite Sunny Sunrise for the lead and after that merely outran the rest of the field. He covered the six furlongs in 1 minute, 9 2/5 seconds. Beneito imported Jose Ferrer, a regular on the Philadelphia-Garden State circuit, to ride his horse.
Flaming Emperor rallied to finish second, a neck in front of Encaustic, another closer.
Rick Wilson, who rode Sunny Sunrise, said that once his horse couldn't get by Dontcloseyoureyes, "he just plum gave up. I was sendin' and sendin', but if he doesn't get the lead, he gives up."
Laurel-Pimlico fans bet a total of $33,827 on the Belmont Pick-6, "a disappointing figure," De Francis said. No one at the Maryland tracks selected all six winners, which paid $36,676. The 5-of-6 pay-off was $240. The winning combination was 1 -2-7-1-2-6. . . . Trainer Bill Donovan plans to ship Harriet Finklestein's filly, Diamond Duo, to Gulfstream Park this week to prepare for the Oct. 31 Breeders' Cup. Secret Odds, of Laurel, ran a strong second in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont yesterday.