LAUREL -- Colonel Hill flashed the brilliance he showed in his career debut when winning the $42,975 Dancing Count Stakes yesterday at Laurel Race Course.
The 3-year-old colt, ridden by Edgar Prado, swept past early leader Well Well Well at the eighth pole and won by three lengths over Gala Spinaway. He survived a claim of foul by Gregg McCarron, who rode the runner-up.
McCarron told the stewards that outside pressure from Prado had caused Gala Spinaway to hit the rail in the turn. The stewards disagreed.
For Colonel Hill, it was his second victory in four career starts; he has run in a stakes race every time. In his first start, he won the Devil's Bag Stakes, leading owner/breeder Victor DiVivo to believe he had a solid Triple Crown candidate.
But the colt disappointed in two subsequent starts, so trainer Howard Wolfendale gave him a brief respite. Yesterday, returning from a six-week layoff and receiving the bleeder
medication Lasix for the first time, he won with authority, running six furlongs in 1 minute, 10 3/5 seconds.
His next start, DiVivo said, likely will be the Private Terms Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race, March 3 at Laurel. Can he go the distance?
"He was pulling away pretty nicely at the end today," DiVivo said.
Colonel Hill paid $4.60 to win as the favorite in a field of five. Gala Spinaway recovered from the incident in the turn in which McCarron was forced to steady him to finish second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Fortunate Lance.
* Wide Country is the overwhelming favorite in today's $40,000-added Flirtation Stakes, one of 12 live races at Laurel.
State law allows only 11 live races on weekends and holidays, so the track had to receive permission from the Maryland Racing Commission yesterday morning to conduct the extra race.
Racing secretary Larry Abbundi said he did not know whether the track would continue to seek 12-race Sunday cards. The 12th race on many weekend cards, especially Saturdays, usually is an out-of-town simulcast.
* NOTES: Team Lukas has its ducks in a row for Saturday's Winter SprintFest. "The colt will be Profit Key in the General George, and the filly will be Feel the Beat [in the Barbara Fritchie]," Wayne Lukas said from his Santa Anita base. "[Jose] Santos will ride both." The General George and Fritchie are seven-furlong, $200,000 races. . . . Trainer Lisa Ruch has appealed a 15-day suspension for a medication violation. . . . Yesterday's combined handle of $2,473,287 was the most at Laurel and inter-track Pimlico since Oct. 27, Breeders' Cup day.