The Laurel Futurity has been won in recent years by horses like Secretariat, Affirmed and Spectacular Bid, who all went on to become great champions.

It seems unlikely that today's running of the $191,100 event will produce a winner of such quality. There does not appear to be an outstanding 2-year-old anywhere in America. Still, the owner and trainer of a colt named Deputy Minister can hold out reasonable hope that he will prove himself a championship-caliber racehorse this afternoon.

Deputy Minister won his first six starts with ease, one of the victories coming in New York, the other five against soft competition in Canada. A viral infection interrupted his training this summer, so he was forced to come into the biggest race of his life, the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, after a 10-week absence from competition.

Because of that layoff, Deputy Minister was probably ill-prepared to go a mile for the first time in his career, and he finished fourth. But trainer John Tammaro, the former Marylander now based in Canada, said he was as impressed by that performance as by any of Deputy Minister's victories.

"That was his first race in nearly three months," Tammaro said, "and he will certainly benefit from his effort. Before the Champagne, we had no chance to know whether he would stay (a distance). I feel now that he will."

With the conditioning he got from his race in the Champagne two weeks ago, Deputy Minister should be able to demonstrate today just what kind of a horse he is. And if he is nearly as good as Tammaro thinks, he should have a clear edge over his seven rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Futurity.

The colt who won the Champagne, Timely Writer, is skipping this race, as are most of the other winners of this season's principal stakes for 2-year-olds.

Deputy Minister's chief opposition will probably come from New Discovery, who beat him by a narrow margin in the Champagne, but is still a maiden after eight starts. Another principal foe will be Irish Martini, who won the prestigious Futurity Stakes at Belmont earlier this fall.

The rest of the horses in the field would be better suited to allowance company rather than a high-grade stake. They are Majesty's Prince, Our Boss, Laser Light, Cagey Cougar and Double Door Prize.