This is a year when Marylanders don't have to have an inferiority complex about their horse racing.
Just last week, the Maryland-based Cure The Blues established himself as the country's best 2-year-old colt with a victory at Laurel.And yesterday, a Maryland-bred filly, Heavenly Cause, demonstrated that she is the best juvenile of her sex.
She scored a 2 1/4-length victory over Canadian invader Rainbow Connection in the $167,860 Selima Stakes at Laurel Race Course, and did it in a manner that left absolutely no doubt about her superiority.
Heavenly Cause had made the same point when she beat the East's best 2-year-old fillies in the Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park, but then suffered an inexplicable loss to longshot Carolina Command in last week's Gardenia Stakes at the Meadowlands. Trainer Woody Stephens theorized that she had been distracted by the lights at the nighttime track, but that seemed a dubious excuse, and Heavenly Cause had to prove herself again yesterday.
She broke alertly, with Expressive Dance outside her and Rainbow Connection inside her as Carolina Command raced next to last in the field of six. The three leaders jockeyed for position all the way down the backstretch. Expressive Dance took the lead for a short time, and then Rainbow Connection rushed up on the rail to challenge her.
Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., aboard Heavenly Cause, was meanwhile demonstrating the coolness that makes him one of America's great contemporary jockeys. He let his two rivals run away from him on the turn, then angled to the rail when he was ready to make his run and found plenty of room.
He dueled with Rainbow Connection for only a few strides and then began to pull steadily away. "I just rode her confidently through the stretch," Pincay said. Carolina Command, Heavenly Cause's conquerer last week, never made a serious threat with her stretch run.
Heavenly Cause covered the mile and one-sixteenth in 1:43 2/5, respectable if not sensational time. She paid $5.20, $2.40 and $2.10, while Rainbow Connection returned $2.80 and $2.20 and Carolina Command paid $2.60 to show. c
The filly's triumph represented a rare feat for her owners, James and Eleanor Ryan. They had bred last year's Selima winner and champion 2-year-old, Smart Angle, at their Ryehill Farm in Mount Airy and now seem about to duplicate that achievement.
Heavenly Cause gave trainer Stephens his fourth Selima winner in the last eight years, and presumably his second straight 2-year-old filly champion. "She has won two long races -- the Frizette and the Selima -- and lost by only a head in the Matron," Stephens said. "I think this makes her the champion."