The two leading ingenues of thoroughbred racing's fall theater compete for an Eclipse Aeard today in the $130,850 Selima Stakes at Laurel. The national championship for 2 year old fillies is on the line, over 1 1/16 miles, with the $74,010 first prize probably not as valuable to the owner as is the prestige that will accrue should either Lakeville Miss or L'Alezane grace the winner's circle.
L'Alezane figures to be here. She was born to be a leading lady. Her sire is Dr. Fager. Her dam is Northern Willow, a daughter of Northern Dancer. She is a product of the Canadian finishing farm owned by E. P. Taylor, the world's foremost breeder of race horses.
Jean-Louis Levesque, a Montreal industrialist, parted with $101,000 of his millions to buy L'Alezane from Taylor at the Saratoga yearling sales. Her trainer is the veteran John Starr, who developed Fanfreluche and La Prevoyante into star attractions.
L'Alezane has fulfilled her lofty station in life, winning eight of 10 starts and $229,706. Last Saturday at Keeneland in Kentucky, she captured the land in Kentucky. At Saratoga this summer, she won the Schuylerville and the Adirondack stakes. She also has won three stakes in Canada.
Overall, L'Alezane has been favored seven times, beginning with the day she made her debut and including her last five races.
Lakeville Miss is another story. She is a homebred by Rainy Lake out of Hew by Blue Prince. Randloph Weinsier, her owner, never will be accused of being a poor man but he is not Louis Levesque, either. Weinsier ran Hew in his colors, then bred her to the finest stallion he could get.
That is what is so beautiful about thoroughbred racing and breeding. One man's idea of breeding "the best to the best" often, because of economic circumstances, is quite different than that of the owner whose horses occupy the barn next door. Jack Price once set Joppy, his best mare, to Saggy, the best sire he could afford, and got carried away with Carry Back.
Weinsier and his young trainer, Jose Martin, thought so highly of Lakeville Miss that they dropped her in a $25,000 claiming dash at Belmont Park June 30 for her first race. Indeed, the betting public thought so much of Lakeville Miss in her first two stakes efforts that they made her 19 to 1 and 9 to 1.
L'Alezane finished ahead of Lakeville Miss in both those races, conceding her seven pounds in their first meeting. They have not opposed each other since. New York bettors, meanwhile, needed extra time to begin to appreciate Lakeville Miss' talents. They finally favored her when she won the Frizette stakes by five lengths Oct. 1, after she had scored over more fancied fillies in the Astarita and the Matron.
One might suppose, considering their head-to-head combat records, that L'Alezane will be favored in the Selima. Suppose again. Lakeville Miss will be odds on.
"She is definitely the one all of us have to beat," Starr said yesterday morning. "She gotten awfully good. My filly has beaten her twice. L'Alezane is good and honest. Her name means her color, chestnut, in French. But she is not to be compared with Fanfreluche or La Prevoyante. Not yet, anyway."
Martin agrees with Starr's assessment of the Selima.
"Lakeville Miss has come a long way," the trainer declared. "She has matured. She is different than she was this summer. She's better. People talk about us running her for $25,000. The truth is she wouldn't have brought $25,000 at a sale then."
Stub and Sherry Peppers, two of the most formidable rivals for Lakeville Miss in New York, will not be in the Selima. Stub had to be destroyed recently after suffering an injury during a race. Surgery was unbale to save her life.
THere are those who believe Martin is talking an unnecessary risk by running Lakeville Miss today. She had the 2 year old filly title locked up, they contend. Now, if she loose to L'Alezane, the vote would turn around.
"She ain't gonna get beat," Martin assured. They way he said it was enough to make a reporter believe that L'Alezane and the five other fillies in the Selima are running for second money.
Sentimentality, Northern Meteor, La Voyageuse, Country Queen and Eye Of The Storm complete the field. Eye of the Storm is the only other stakes winner.
La Voyageuse is a stablemate to L'Alezane. She is a brown daughter by Tentam out of Fanfreluche, the Northern Dancer mare athat was kidnaped from Caiborne Farm in Kentucky this spring while in foal to Secretariat.
"They still haven't found her." Starr said, "Mr. Levesque has a yearling by Secretariat out of Fanfreluche but she was barren last year.