A few weeks ago, an irate reader wrote a letter to the editor of this sports section with a complaint about its racing columnist.

Why, he asked, when the columnist touts a horse, is the race always one in New York or Florida? Isn't Beyer man enough to tackle the tough racing in Maryland?

Belatedly, I'd like to answer this question. When I love a horse, my principal objective (uncharitable though it may be) is to make money from it. To write that a horse at a local track is a mortal lock would probably stimulate enough betting to ruin the odds. It's a can't-win situation. If I'm wrong I get abuse. If I'm right, my own profits are diminished and folks will say, "Big deal; anybody can pick a 6-to-5 shot." Therefore I keep most of my opinions to myself.

Admittedly, this attitude is selfish, mercenary, and mean-spirited. And, certainly, during the Christmas season, it is inappropriate. So, having spotted a mortal lock on today's card at Laurel, I wish to share the wealth with readers. Since the horse's price probably won't be large enough to pay all the Christmas bills, this will be the first half of a special holiday parlay. The second half comes on Dec. 19.

Lit'l Lou Horner, in the ninth race at Laurel this afternoon, is the type of horse who provides speed handicappers their best money-making opportunities. He made his most recent two starts at the Meadowlands, and so many bettors may have trouble comparing his form with that of the local horses. But close scrutiny of all the horses' records suggests that this race is a mismatch.

Lit'l Lou Horner made his racing debut at Laurel in October and finished sixth on a very muddy track. Then he went to New Jersey, where he started to show some signs of ability, losing by a neck in a maiden-claiming race.

Last week he ran against a good maiden-special-weight field, losing by less than a length; he was seven lengths ahead of the third-place horse. He covered six furlongs in 1:12 3/5. On the same program, a minor stakes race for 2-year olds was run in 1:12 1/5. A field of solid older $12,000 claimers went six furlongs in 1:12 3/5. Lit'l Lou Horner's time compares favorably with that of horses of reasonable quality.

The horses he faces today in a seven-furlong event for Maryland-bred 2-year-olds don't have any such credentials. It is an uninspiring group, devoid of any well-bred first-time starters or improving youngsters who make most such maiden races very chancy betting propositions.

The best of the lot appear to be Call Me Maestro and Gala Event, who were narrowly beaten in a one-mile maiden race at Laurel recently. That event was run in 1:43. On the same afternoon, older $5,000 claimers went the same distance in 1:41 2/5.

So while Lit'l Lou Horner has shown that he is on a par with $12,000 claimers, the Maryland horses are vastly inferior to $5,000 animals. My speed figures, which attempt to express such comparisons in precise terms, indicate that Lit'l Lou Horner is 10 1/2 lengths faster than his opposition. That margin of superiority should be enough to get the holiday betting season off to a happy start.