LAUREL -- On a day when rich Grade I events abounded in racing, Southern Tradition sped to victory at Laurel Race Course in a manner suggesting that she, too, could be in the big time soon.
The triumph came in the $75,000 Martha Washington Handicap for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles on the turf yesterday.
Top-weighted at 120 pounds and favored at 1.80-1, Southern Tradition carried Edgar Prado to a 1 3/4 -length decision over long shot Starfield.
Southern Tradition is based at Belmont Park with trainer Henry Carroll and is owned by Frank Stella, an artist and art dealer.
Stella paid $15,000 for Southern Tradition last year and turned her over to Carroll. The filly has had an excellent turf campaign.
Stella has other horses based in New York, but Southern Tradition is his attention getter.
The Laurel race was her fourth in stakes competition and gave her 11 in-the-money finishes in as many starts for her 3-year-old season.
Southern Tradition won the Grade III Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington Park July 1 and is headed to Keeneland next for the $100,000-added Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, a Grade II event Oct. 20.
"It's an invitational," Carroll said. "We were invited quite a while ago."
Southern Tradition is by Family Doctor, a son of Dr. Fager.
Most of the time, she races just behind the leaders.
"The trainer said to be behind the pace," said Prado, Maryland's dominant rider and the Laurel leader. "She runs better when she has horses in front of her. Past the quarter pole, she fired pretty good."
Southern Tradition took the lead as the front-running Charnell's Dream began to drop back. Starfield closed mildly for second, followed by Secret Advice, McKilts, Virgin Michael, Baltic Chill, Charnell's Dream and Ice Blink.
Southern Tradition reached the finish line in 1 minute, 40 2/5 seconds on firm footing, and paid $5.60.
* Carroll said that Yankee Affair, the Ju Ju Gen Stable's turf specialist, will miss the Budweiser International Oct. 21.
Yankee Affair went off as favorite in the International last year, but finished second to Caltech by 1 3/4 lengths.
"He's not ready for it," Carroll said. "He's had a problem that kept him from working about 14 days. He's just ready to start breezing again, but it's not quite enough time to get to the International."