LAUREL -- Nicki gets another chance at heavily favored Gala Goldilocks today at Laurel Race Course in a battle of Maryland's best state-bred 2-year-old fillies.
The occasion today is the $150,000 Maryland Juvenile filly Championship at 1 1/16 miles. The winner, unless the victory comes by a fluke, likely will be voted the champion younger filly among Maryland-breds.
Another good prize is the $80,000 winning purse. Among those in the Championship field, only Gala Goldilocks' bankroll of $102,638 is higher than the winning purse today.
The first four finishers in the 7-furlong What A Summer Stakes -- Gala Goldilocks, Nicki, Indian Anthem and Wide Country -- return today in the longer race against Ritchie Trail, Miss Alethia and The Knight's Queen.
Several factors might favor Nicki today.
When Nicki ran second to Gala Goldilocks, beaten by seven lengths, it was only her second start. She had won a maiden
race at Laurel by four lengths when tangling with the well-campaigned Gala Goldilocks.
She had good works and had impressed the stable, but a maiden victory might not have been sufficient experience.
Nicki raced second all the way for jockey Danny Wright and trainer Jim Simpson.
But Nicki has some exceptional bloodlines. She is by Iron, an unraced half-brother to Coastal and Slew of Gold. But her main claim to fame is on her dam's side. She is the daughter of Toes Knows, who won 11 races, including seven stakes, under Simpson's colors.
Nicki is the first offspring of Toes Knows.
"She ought to do better in this race," Simpson said yesterday. "She does have a little bit of a shin problem that we're going to have to live with, but I expect her to run."
Toes Knows won stakes races at distances up to 1 1/8 miles back in 1986.
Her groom was Nicole Witte, wife of Simpson's assistant, Kevin Witte.
"Nicole is the groom of Nicki, too," Simpson said. "So we named this filly in honor of Nicole. We call her Nicki.'
* Ebonizer won the eighth race yesterday and broke the 6 1/2 -furlong record at Laurel. The gelding, trained by Carlos Garcia, reached the finish line in 1 minute, 15 2/5 seconds, which took two seconds off Beth's Bonus's record set here in 1988.
Ebonizer, second winning ride of the day for Marco Castaneda, paid $6.40.