It is called the International Turf Festival, but after the results of the five-race weekend series was tallied yesterday, it had a definite Gallic ring.
The French horses came. They ran, especially well on the soft, mushy grass. They conquered.
Three of the five races were won by French-based horses, including the featured Budweiser International (Leariva, $90.60), the Selima (Ken de Saron, $18.20) and the All Along Stakes (Sha Tha, $11.20).
When the Americans finally won a race, a track official quipped after the anthem of the winning country was played at the winner's circle ceremonies, "It's nice to finally hear the 'Star-Spangled Banner.' "
An American colt, Smiling And Dancin, won the Laurel Futurity, paying $8.60, and Forest Glow, went wire-to-wire for a six-length victory in the Laurel Dash. He paid $4.60, as the shortest-priced entry to win one of the five stakes.
All five winners were, however, bred in Kentucky and four of them were ridden by American jockeys. Maryland-based Edgar Prado scored the biggest win of his career when he won the International.
New York jockeys, Richard Migilore, Angel Cordero Jr. and Mike Smith, rode Smiling And Dancin, Forest Glow and Sha Tha, respectively.
French jockey Eric Legrix won with Ken de Saron. The Selima winner is trained by Maurice Zilber, who has won three Internationals. This year the race was won by one of his proteges, David Smaga.
Miss Josh, Maryland's championship-caliber turf mare, was scratched from the All Along Stakes because of the soft footing.
Even though a near record handle of over $3 million was bet Saturday, total two-day figures were down slightly from 1990.
Last year, 39,950 fans attended the Turf Festival and bet $4,961,690. This year the total figures were 39,669 fans, who wagered $4,884,727.
The International was run on Sunday last year, but was switched this year to Saturday.