LAUREL -- Wide Country capped a sensational year with a four-length victory yesterday in the All Brandy Handicap, the last stakes race of the year in Maryland.
The 3-year-old filly drew off from Lucky Lady Lauren in mid-stretch in the $75,000, 1 1/8 -mile event at Laurel Race Course, marking her eighth stakes win of the year. Lucky Lady Lauren held second, three lengths in front of Long Walk.
"She's still doing great, considering she's been in training all year," said trainer Bob Camac. "She just ran a big race. She beat older mares and she was giving away weight."
Wide Country, high-weighted at 120 pounds, long ago established herself as the top 3-year-old Maryland-bred filly of the year. Ridden by Santos Chavez on a muddy track, she stalked Lucky Lady Lauren and Leopard Lily, then moved even with Lucky Lady Lauren with a quarter-mile remaining.
Wide Country paid $4.40 as the solid favorite in a field of nine state-breds. The filly is 12 of 20 lifetime and has won nearly $750,000 for owner Tommy Tanner of Wilmington, Del.
Most of Laurel's top jockeys rode in the All Brandy, but the question lingers on whether they will be active later this week. After being addressed yesterday morning by Laurel president Joe De Francis, the jockeys agreed to refuse being named on horses for Wednesday. Indeed, entries for that program were released yesterday afternoon without jockeys.
A telephone conference was conducted yesterday morning between representatives of the Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Jockeys' Guild. "My understanding is that the only sticking point is whether it's legally possible for the jockeys to ride on New Year's Day without waiving their television rights," said De Francis. "The TRA has agreed to sign anything that protects the jockeys' position so that the matter is not prejudiced if it goes to court. I'm extremely optimistic this can be resolved and we'll have our leading riders riding on New Year's Day. In the event they choose not to ride, we will still have racing."
Last week, the Guild filed suit against the TRA over television rights, the most contentious issue in the Guild's refusal to accept a new contract with the TRA.
The TRA yesterday issued a release that outlined the positions of both sides on a number of issues. "Let's let the courts worry about [the television rights] issue," TRA president Thomas Meeker said in the release. "What we want to do is take care of the insurance needs of the jockeys right now."
One Laurel rider yesterday said he and his colleagues also are optimistic that a work stoppage will be averted.
NOTES: The All Brandy marked the last race for sixth-place finisher Noblest Heart, who won 9 of 32 races and $289,260 for Lewisfield Farm. The 5-year-old mare is being retired to be bred. . . . Because tomorrow's card technically ends a meeting, the Double Triple pool must be paid out. The carry-over rose to $55,666 after yesterday's fifth race. . . . Apprentice James Parsley had a brief stay in Maryland. He is headed back to Turfway Park in Kentucky. . . . First post tomorrow and Wednesday is noon.