LAUREL -- Fashion Miss had rallied from third and won the $60,000 Queen Empress Stakes at Laurel Race Course yesterday, and owner-trainer Vinnie Blengs and his wife, Terry, arrived at the winners' circle.
Blengs saddled Fashion Miss for her third victory in five starts. The triumph in the race for 2-year-old fillies on the turf was her first in stakes company.
Fashion Miss was listed as being owned by Blengs, and the breeder as "C. Brimmo." The assumption was that Blengs might have picked up the Florida-bred at a sale last winter.
"No, I didn't buy her," the trainer said. "She was bred by my wife's uncle. He died not long ago, and we inherited his horses. He had about 17 of them. He was known as Candy Brimmo in Florida, and had a small stable and won lots of races. How he would have enjoyed seeing this one."
Fashion Miss, the second choice, paid $6.20 to win.
It was opening day at Laurel, where Edgar Prado emerged as the star jockey. He rode Fashion Miss and three other winners, taking the lead among riders.
Mark Johnston was the leading rider, with Prado close behind, when Laurel's summer meeting ended and the races shifted to Pimlico Race Course. Prado won the title at Pimlico.
Considering that Fashion Miss had been second in the Fair Star Stakes with a good excuse -- "pinched back," said the Daily Racing Form -- she looked like a good thing yesterday. However, Joe Pierce had brought in the stakes winner, Private Treasure, with Craig Perret to ride, and the Laurel crowd of 7,062, plus 2,298 at the Pimlico intertrack facility, made her the favorite.
Private Treasure showed some speed and got to second, but Fashion Miss rallied for the lead in the late stretch and left second money for Aca Joy. Private Treasure wound up third, with Perret saying: "No excuse."
Said Prado: "He [Blengs] told me to try to relax the first part [of the race]. It was her first time at a mile; try to make one run. When I asked her, she fired pretty good."
Now that Prado is the jockey kingpin, it might be understandable if he would begin to consider a racing center with more lucrative rewards, the way Kent Desormeaux did when he went to California.
Prado shook his head no and said: "I like Maryland. People have been good to me here."
Based on the latest available statistics, he is eighth in the nation among jockeys in winners.
Fashion Miss reached the finish line in 1 minute, 37 3/5 seconds, which doesn't compare favorably with Portsmouth's course record of 1:34, set in 1965.
So, when Blengs was asked about paying a supplementary nomination fee of $15,000 to get her eligible for the $300,000 Selima Stakes on Oct. 20, the trainer scratched his head and said: "We'll have to take a little time to sort this out."
* Trainer Mike Pino said talented Ten Keys is scheduled to run next in the $35,000 John Henry Stakes on the turf at the Meadowlands on Sept. 28, then come back in the $750,000 Budweiser International at Laurel on Oct. 21.
* Laurel and Pimlico offer simulcasting of the $1 million Super Derby from Louisiana Downs Sunday. The race will feature a battle between Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled and Preakness winner Summer Squall.
It's their first meeting since the Preakness.