An excellent ride by Gregg McCarron was the difference in the $28,200 feature yesterday as Bowie Race Course began its 66-day winter meeting.

The older brother of the more celebrated Chris McCarron guided Moving Cloud to a nose victory in the Southern Maryland Handicap as Christopher R., the 11 to 10 favorite, faded to ninth in the field of 10 sprinters. Moving Cloud paid $18.80 straight and combined with In A Trance for an $81 return on the 6-4 exacta.

The result left several of the loser more unhappy than usual. Danny Wright, rider of the runner-up claimed foul against the winner "between the quarter pole and the eighth pole (when) I was in tight. I had to take up and go around, and lost momentum."

John K. Adams, who rode the third-place King Of Fools, contended his horse "should have won it; he was hung up all the way."

McCarron, of course, didn't need any excuse. "I just beat him (Wright) to the punch," Moving Cloud's jockey explained. "I moved a little earlier than I wanted (on the turn) simply because I saw Danny was sitting in behind (horses), looking to get out."

By the time In A Trance got in the clear, Moving Cloud was a couple of lengths ahead of him. In A Trance closed strongest of all, on the outside, but never appeared about to overtake the winner. King Of Fools was a length farther back.

Moving Cloud ran the six furlongs in 1:09. This was the first stakes victory for the gray 6-year-old gelding since the Marlboro Nursery at Bowie in 1973.

"I really thought he had a big chance today," McCarron said. "He'd been working real good over at Pimlico in the mornings, and he'd had some good seconds to his credit in stakes in recent years."

Nine of the 10 horses in the Southern Maryland went for the lead. "I looked across, down the backstretch, and we were seven abreast," McCarron noted.

Dancer, North Call, Bold Man and Christopher R. zipped through the opening quarter-mile in :22 1/5. Dancer still led at the half-mile pole (:45), at which point Christopher R. was through, carrying high weight of 125 pounds.

Moving Cloud, under 111, was in gear and clear, on the outside, at that point. In A Trance and King Of Fools lacked clear sailing. McCarron made sure Wright couldn't get out as quickly as he wanted. Which is why Moving Cloud won and In A Trance lost.

A crow of 9,498 bet $1,160,918 on the nine races. The day's biggest surprise came in the last event when Noble Of Course, the $6 favorite, combined with Iron Savage (No. 5) and Berkley Barrister (No. 9) for an exceptionally large $12,766.50 payoff in the triple.