LAUREL -- Most of Maryland's top handicap horses were present for the $100,000 Congressional Handicap at Laurel Race Course yesterday. Chas' Whim literally emerged fastest.
First out of a fog that had enveloped the track all day, the 3-year-old gelding completed a 1 3/4 -length, wire-to-wire victory over a muddy track.
"This is just one good horse," said trainer Rodger Gill, who was winning the Congressional for the fourth time. Gill had sent out Delay to victories in the race in 1973, 1974 and 1975.
Yesterday's Congressional shaped up as a year-end championship of sorts. Virtually all of the seven starters -- with the possible exception of the filly Seattle Dawn, the race's longest shot -- brought strong credentials.
Chas' Whim, ridden by Allen Stacy, controlled the pace in the 1 1/4 -mile event. Jet Stream, with Mario Pino up, got within about a length of him at the quarter-pole, but "every time I moved up to him," said Pino, "he kept spurting away."
Jet Stream held off late-closing Reputed Testamony for second by nearly a length. It was another 4 1/2 lengths back to Runaway Stream, the favorite.
Stacy was exuberant entering the winner's circle. "I didn't mess that up, did I?" he yelled to a friend.
"He [Stacy] told me before the race, 'They're out to get me,' " Gill said in reference to the opposing jockeys. "I said, 'Don't let that bother you. Just go out there and get it done.' "
Chas' Whim's time of 2 minutes, 1 4/5 seconds was just one-fifth off the track record. The clocking probably was a combination several factors: the winner's ability, fast running times at Laurel the past two days and the scarcity of 1 1/4 -mile races at Laurel.
Gill said the colt's owners, Elmer and Harriet Heubeck of Ocala, Fla., were prepared to sell Chas' Whim for $200,000 about two months ago to Neil Drysdale, who made the offer on behalf of a client. "But he [Drysdale] turned him down," Gill said. "He [Chas' Whim] had a little something wrong with him."
Since then, Chas' Whim has won several stakes and pushed his career earnings to $299,641. The victory yesterday, worth $60,000, was his fifth in a stakes.
"This horse will run over anything," said Gill. In 14 starts this year, Chas' Whim has won nine under a variety of conditions -- sprints, distances, mud, turf, fast tracks.
Add "Fog Runner" to Chas' Whim's list of titles.
The fog was so thick that the tote board barely was visible from the grandstand most of the day. Parts of each race could be
seen on television monitors, which used cameras at points around the track.
Announcer John Curran had a particularly poor view from high above the grandstand. His calls were spiced with "it looks like," "apparently" and "your guess is as good as mine." Perhaps his best line came as the horses crossed the wire in the final race: "This is like picking the lottery. Here's the numbers."
Said Curran, who has been calling races for 10 years, "This is the worst I've ever seen it."
The fog inspired Doug Vair, the track's television handicapper, to make an on-air comment about an incident that happened about a year ago.
L "Where is Sylvester Carmouche when we need him?" Vair asked.
Carmouche is the jockey who got national attention while riding at Delta Downs in Vinton, La. Carmouche and his horse hid in the fog while the field ran around the track for one circuit. When the field came around for the second and final time, Carmouche gunned his mount and they finished far ahead.
The ploy was quickly uncovered, however. The horse was disqualified, and Carmouche eventually was suspended.
* Jilsie's Gigalo added another victory to his leading national total yesterday, but it was one he didn't need to defeat Seven Lords, his closest pursuer, for the honor. Seven Lords is stabled at Laurel.
Jilsie's Gigalo won a five-furlong allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, giving him 17 victories this year.
Trainer Rene Araya wanted to run Seven Lords, a 15-time winner in 1990, today or tomorrow, but races for him at Laurel failed to draw sufficient entries, and Araya didn't want to race him elsewhere.
"I would have loved to tie the other guy," Araya said early yesterday, "but when the races here didn't go, I decided to settle for second." The point became moot several hours later when Jilsie's Gigalo won.
Jilsie's Gigalo's mark is two shy of Citation's total in 1949, believed to be the record for victories.
* The deadline for nominating Maryland-sired foals for lifetime participation in the Maryland Million is tomorrow.