The skies opened about 15 minutes before the $75,000 Carousel Stakes at Laurel Park yesterday. Torrents of rain fell.
Jose Martin and his son Jose Martin Jr. looked toward the heavens and thanked their lucky stars.
"Our filly loves the mud," Martin Jr. said.
She does, indeed. Cold Stare, a 4-year-old filly by Strike the Gold, roared wide from sixth to dominate the 1 1/8-mile Carousel Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths. As the 9-2 third choice, she defeated top Maryland fillies and mares in what is a frequent ritual at Laurel: New York horse drops in; New York horse goes home a winner.
Cold Stare resides at Belmont Park. Her trainer, Carlos Martin, did not accompany her to Maryland, but Martin's father and brother did. The three of them train the horses together.
Jose Martin, the father, knows his business. He trained three Eclipse Award winners: Lakeville Miss, 1977 2-year-old filly champion; Wayward Lass, 1981 3-year-old filly champion; and Groovy, 1987 sprint champion.
The race was Cold Stare's first stakes after 28 allowance, claiming and maiden races. After a powerful 6 1/4-length victory three weeks ago against a tough allowance field at Aqueduct, the Martins decided a stakes race was in order. They looked south to Maryland.
"It's not that we consider Maryland easy pickings," Martin Jr. said. "It's just that certain races come up slightly weaker here than the same race would in New York. Our filly is no world-beater. Then again, there weren't any killers in this race, either."
The Maryland pair Merengue (7-5) and Tookin Down (8-5) attracted most of the bettors' money. But Cold Stare blew past Merengue, the early leader, on the far turn and never looked back as Tookin Down rallied for third.
The Unforgiven, stabled at Laurel Park, offered the New York invader her stiffest competition. But The Unforgiven couldn't keep up in the stretch and finished a non-threatening second.
New York jockey Julio Pezua rode the winner. He had never ridden her before.
"We had a really good trip," Pezua said. "We decided to stay outside. By the time she got to the quarter pole, she was in full gear. I asked her to run, and she finished with something left."