LAUREL -- There is no Lost Code or Private Terms among them, but this year's crop of Maryland-based 3-year-olds is considered a highly competitive group.
"This is the best group we've had in Maryland for a long while," trainer Bernie Bond said at Laurel Race Course yesterday, "but I don't think there's a superstar."
"You wouldn't be ashamed to take any of them anywhere," said jockey Gregg McCarron. "There are four or five that are not a length apart."
That assessment was reinforced in the $21,000 feature when Gala Spinaway, trained by Bond and ridden by McCarron, out-dueled A Call to Rise and the fast-closing Forry Cow How to win the allowance test by a nose in a three-horse photo finish.
Forry Cow How, sent off the .90-to-1 favorite under Joe Rocco, suffered from a sluggish pace in the 1 1/16-mile event, which was completed in a modest 1 minute, 45 4 /5 seconds.
"I really didn't get a slow start," said Rocco, whose mount started outside in the field of six. "It was just a slow pace. I could never take back and get in gear. We got the worst of it."
Rocco said his mount tired slightly in the final eighth after only light workouts to prepare.
"He was lame after his last race, but he's going to be a nice horse. He does everything right."
It was a two-horse duel most of the way, with second-choice Gala Spinaway stalking the game A Call to Rise with Alberto Delgado up.
"He struggled a little bit," said McCarron of the winner. "When we DTC made the lead, he got to goofing off, actually relaxed. He likes to have a horse to run at. I think if we had been three behind Alberto, we'd have blown by him."
McCarron was expecting the late rush from Forry Cow How, whose grandfather, Honest Pleasure, was second to Bold Forbes in the 1976 Kentucky Derby.
"I looked for the gray horse at the quarter pole," he said. "I knew he was coming, but I also knew he wasn't getting by."
Bond said he does not plan to recommend supplementing Gala Spinaway to this year's Kentucky Derby at a fee of $4,500. His next race will probably be the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Sunday.
In that $50,000 stakes, he will probably run into Forry Cow How again.
* Fly So Free is considered an early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but Cahill Road, a full brother of Unbridled, won a 1 1/16-mile race at Gulfstream Park in quicker time Saturday.