LAUREL -- The last time Runaway Stream raced against Chas' Whim, everyone was in a fog. Literally.
"That was the day the fog was real heavy," said Randy Bright, assistant to Runaway Stream's trainer, Larry Murray.
But since the Congressional Handicap was run at Laurel Race Course last December, Runaway Stream and Chas' Whim have remained among Maryland's top handicap horses. Chas' Whim won that last meeting, but Runaway Stream, owned by Howard Bender of Bethesda, has been more active and more accomplished this year. Today, he'll be favored to win the Walter Haight Handicap at Laurel, with Chas' Whim a solid second choice.
Bender will not be at Laurel to witness the race because he has been hospitalized after undergoing heart surgery, Bright said.
"Mr. Bender is sick -- he didn't get to come watch his namesake run today," Bright said before yesterday's ninth race at Laurel. About 15 minutes later, Howard's Halo crossed the finish line an easy winner.
Edgar Prado will ride Chas' Whim, a 4-year-old making his third start since recovering from a minor tendon injury. Prado lost his lead atop the Laurel jockeys' standings yesterday when Mike Luzzi rode four winners. Through 39 racing days, he has won 46 races to Prado's 45. "If we can stay away from injuries, I see us going head-to-head all winter," said Steve Rushing, Prado's agent.
Luzzi was named on two horses in the Walter Haight before choosing Frugal Doc over Learned Jake. Both were upset winners in their latest outings, and both will attempt a similar result today.
NOTES: The Walter Haight is named for the long-time turf writer for the Washington Post. . . . The New York Stallion Stakes from Aqueduct simulcast precedes the Walter Haight on today's 11-race card. . . . Clever Mary, ridden by Greg Hutton, barely held on to win yesterday's Laurel feature over Valleigh Bird, denying Luzzi a fifth winner. Clever Mary was claimed for $16,000 by trainer Charles Dewald in September and already has more than paid for herself already. . . . Jockey Joe Rocco took off all mounts yesterday after feeling pain in a knee when galloping out on Second Again in the third race. Agent Tom Hauer said Rocco will fulfill his riding obligations today. . . . Jockey Larry Saumell has been suspended 10 days after withdrawing an appeal of a 7-day penalty for a riding infraction in a Pimlico race in September. The suspension will begin Monday. . . . By saddling the winners of 3 races yesterday, Eddie Gaudet moved into third place in the trainers' standings, behind King Leatherbury and Carlos Garcia.