LAUREL -- On a day when runaways seemed fashionable, Runaway Stream continued his dominance yesterday at Laurel Race Course.
Nearly three hours before the gelding won the Walter Haight Handicap, a previously unraced filly captured the attention of horsemen and fans. Mixed Appeal won a maiden race by 18 lengths with frightening ease and in fast time, perhaps giving a glimpse of future stardom.
In the Haight, uninitiated fans may have thought they were seeing a runaway. Learned Jake hit the wire nearly seven lengths ahead of Runaway Stream, but there was a problem: He had no jockey.
"Fell right on his head out of the gate," said Greg Hutton, who came off in the first stride of the 1 1/8 -mile race. As an unscathed Hutton, raced back to the jockeys' room, the horses raced around the track. Learned Jake, recovered from the eventful start and relieved of his 112-pound assignment, sped far in front, while Runaway Stream led the others through fractions of :25 2/5 and :49 2/5 for the opening quarter- and half-mile, respectively.
"The instructions were to follow Chas' Whim and J.R.'s Horizon," said Joe Rocco, who rode Runaway Stream. "But the pace was so slow that [Runaway Stream] put me on the lead."
Into the stretch, Runaway Stream edged away from Chas' Whim -- always his most dogged pursuer -- to win by two lengths, strengthening his position as Maryland's top handicap horse. Midas rallied wide to finish third, another neck behind.
Although he has raced respectably against some of the East's top handicap horses, Laurel-based Runaway Stream is 0-for-6 outside of Maryland this year. But in four races in the state, he is 4-for-5, accounting for most of his 1991 bankroll of $254,730.
"I don't know what's next for him, because there's not much here," said trainer Larry Murray. "Maybe something in New York."
Runaway Stream, the 7-5 favorite, races under the silks of Sondra Bender, whose husband, Howard, was released from Suburban Hospital in Bethesda yesterday after recuperating from heart surgery.
"Mrs. Bender didn't come today because Mr. Bender just got out," said Murray. "I talked to him on the phone and he threatened to come out, although I don't think Mrs. Bender was in earshot. So he must be feeling well."
Mixed Appeal, a 3-year-old daughter of Mighty Appealing, was saddled by Dean Gaudet, private trainer of a large stable for Israel Cohen, the Giant Food magnate. The filly raced without any serious urging from jockey Jo Jo Ladner when completing six furlongs in 1 minute, 10 seconds.
NOTES: Contrary to the way the track program and trade publications continue to describe him, Runaway Stream, 4, is a gelding, not a colt, Murray said. "We had him gelded when he was 2, a week after he got to the track," he said. "Hopefully he'll be racing a few more years." . . .Edgar Prado and Mike Luzzi continue their see-saw battle atop the jockeys' standings. Prado rode 3 winners yesterday to Luzzi's 1, giving him a 48-47 lead through 40 racing days. . . . A field of 9 goes in today's restricted Virginia Stallion Stakes. . . . After Thursday's first race, the stewards voided a claim of Crown and Anchor. But after further review, they overturned the decision yesterday and upheld the claim. The filly will race next for trainer Vinnie Blengs and owner Gold-n-Oats Stable.