LAUREL -- Laurel Race Course offers two stakes events on an 11-race program today -- one for the tried and true, and one for horses seeking that exalted level.
First is the $75,000 Goss L. Stryker Stakes for Maryland-bred 3-year-olds. Two races later, experienced sprinters battle in the Northern Wolf Handicap.
Forry Cow How, Gala Spinaway and Haymaker are top contenders in the Stryker. They were the one-two-three finishers in the Star de Naskra Stakes in a previous meeting.
The $50,000-added Northern Wolf makes its debut today. Less than a year ago, trainers were more intent on beating Northern Wolf than winning the Northern Wolf. Several of the entrants in today's race for older sprinters raced against him in 1990, a year in which Northern Wolf -- then a 4-year-old -- established the six-furlong track records at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course. Appropriately, six furlongs is the distance for today's race.
Star Touch, trained by Eddie Gaudet, is one of the favorites.
"I'm really pointing for the General George [Stakes, Feb. 16 at Laurel]," Gaudet said. "He's been getting away a step or two late, like in his last race, and it really cost him. I look for him to run good this time."
Star Touch gets a rematch with Fire Plug, narrow winner of the Resolution Handicap in their last encounter.
* Three trainers -- all in the top 12 at the Laurel meeting -- will begin serving suspensions for medication violations next week.
Steward Mitchell starts a 30-day suspension Monday. He had three violations last year; his third, in which a 2-year-old was found to be illegally treated with Lasix for a race late last year, earned Mitchell double the normal 15-day penalty.
Carlos Garcia has decided not to appeal a 2-year-old Bute case to a higher court; he already had lost an appeal in Howard County Circuit Court. Garcia, who tied for fourth in the nation with 19 stakes victories last year, begins a 15-day vacation Monday.
Howard Wolfendale, second-leading trainer at the meeting, was suspended 15 days when Barbara's Last was found to be treated with promazine, a sedative common for use on high-strung horses, for a winning race Dec. 13. The penalty begins Wednesday.