LAUREL -- Gala Spinaway rallied from fourth and won the $40,900 Bimelech Stakes at Laurel Race Course yesterday in a scene that has happened dozens of times through the years at Maryland racetracks.
The reason for the familiarity was the personalities in the winners' circle. There were the winning owners, Gertrude and Skip Leviton, and the breeders, Nancy and Bob Leonard. They were there to celebrate another stakes winner sent out by trainer Bernie Bond.
The colt had just won the seven-furlong race for 2-year-olds by 4 3/4 lengths over Solo Dash, and Skip Leviton, from Atlantic City, N.J., was asked how long his racehorses that included the name "Gala" in them had been winning stakes races.
"I don't know, maybe 20 years," he said. "The name Gala is an acronym of Gertrude, our daughter Ann, my real name of Leonard and our son-in-law, Adam.
"I don't know how long it's been."
No one was able to guess how many stakes winners Bond has trained, although Leviton thought the number might be in the 50s.
"Here's one statistic that is true," Leviton said. "Nine of the 10 horses we've bought from the Leonards have won stakes races."
Gregg McCarron rode favored Gala Spinaway, a Maryland-bred who is by Star Choice. Part of McCarron's style in getting the most from a racehorse is a shrill whistle. But by the time they left the sixteenth pole yesterday, the whistling wasn't necessary. He was winning so easy.
The colt usually battles for the early lead, but yesterday, he took it easy early. "I was tucked in behind the leaders," said McCarron. "At the half-mile pole, I had to steady, and then I eased to the outside. He won easy."
Gala Spinaway paid $9.60.
Alae Rouge, who set the pace through fast fractions, was eased through the stretch in a field of 10.
* The $750,000 Budweiser International is scheduled for its earliest start since 1952, when the turf race began as the Washington D.C. International.
Because of later commitments on ESPN, the Oct. 21 race from Laurel is set for the sixth race, with a 2:40 p.m. post time.
Only one other time has the International been close to such an early start. That was in 1974, when CBS television officials required that it go off as the fifth race.
The start was at 2:42 p.m., with Admetus as the upset winner over odds-on favorite Dahlia, who ran third.
"ESPN will have a 1 1/2 -hour show this year," said Jim Mango, track general manager. "It starts at 1:30 and goes to 3. We've got two big races after that, the Dash and the All Along."
* A group of Japanese racing commissioners was seen touring Laurel yesterday, taking notes and photographs.
Marty Jacobs, counsel for Laurel, said: "They're just here to look over the place. I understand they were at The Meadowlands the other night. . . No, they're not trying to buy Laurel."
However, Kim Goodwin, who served as their guide, said they were most interested in whether "the track operated for a profit and how someone would go about buying the track."