In a racing season devoid of exceptional 2-year-olds, no young horse has started his career with more flair than the Maryland-based colt Mighty Appealing.

Mighty Appealing made his debut on opening day at Laurel and annihilated a respectable field of maidens by 16 lengths. Two weeks later, he ran away with an allowance race by nine lengths.

Today, he will get a chance to prove that he is one of the top horses of his generation when he runs in the $292,475 Laurel Futurity.

Mighty Appealing's sudden development comes as only a mild surprise to his trainer, Dean Gaudet, who bought him for $225,000 at a Florida sale earlier in the year. Before spending that much money, she spent hours watching him -- she even scrutinized him when he was sleeping -- and liked all she saw.

"He had good balance and he moved well," Gaudet said, "but he was a big, leggy colt and we opted to take our time with him."

Gaudet originally had no thoughts of the Futurity -- she doesn't like to rush her horses. But, she said, "When he ran two such big races, we felt like we had a shot," although, "Ideally, we would have preferred a little more seasoning."

Indeed, horses like Mighty Appealing rarely can make the quantum jump in class that he is being asked to make today.

In his two starts, he has led all the way without being seriously pressured -- and it's easy for horses to win big under such favorable circumstances.

Now, he is being asked to cope with such pressure, to face rivals who have more experience and conditioning, and to go 1 1/16 miles for the first time in his life.

Ordinarily, a good handicapper should relish the prospect of betting against a horse like Mighty Appealing. But the 62d running of the Futurity might be made to order for him.

Most 2-year-old stakes are filled with precocious youngsters who have shown high speed and are now trying to prove they can go a distance. Against such a field, a front-runner like Mighty Appealing might have some trouble. But in the 12-horse field at Laurel today there is not a single speed horse of quality. Jockey Greg Smith ought to be able to take an easy early lead with Mighty Appealing.

Gaudet questions this analysis, pointing out that a rival named World Peace seems to have great speed, too. But when World Peace won a sprint at Atlantic City, he was beating a dismal bunch; his fractions and final time were much slower than $3,500 claimers ran on the same night. Mighty Appealing won't have any trouble getting loose from him.

Not only is the Futurity devoid of speed, it doesn't have much real quality, either. There is only one stakes winner in the field: the probable favorite, Doubly Clear.

It is a bit ironic to speak of Doubly Clear as the "class" of the race, because few thoroughbreds have less classy origins than this gelding from Penn National Race Course.

Owner Judy Bujnicki bought him for $1,500 at the Timonium Yearling Sale, intending to make a show horse out of him. But when Doubly Clear showed surprising speed, Bujnicki put him into training to be a racehorse, and he started his career in a cheap claiming race at Bowie. Since then, he has written racing's best Cinderella story of the year, winning four stakes -- including the rich Sapling at Monmouth Park -- and earning $227,995.

The one other horse in today's field with solid credentials is Mugzy's Rullah, who has been finishing well against the top 2-year-olds in New York. He rallied to finish third in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, and was third again in the nationally televised Futurity Stakes at Belmont. Of all the Futurity entrants, he is the one who seems most likely to relish the 1 1/16-mile distance.

But he is clearly no star, and neither is Doubly Clear. Mighty Appealing just might be -- and he could show it today. Bart's Star Wins

Burt's Star, a well-bred colt who had not raced since last winter, showed speed and tenacity yesterday in winning the feature race at Laurel by a length over odds-on favorite Never Cye. Monroe Park closed well to finish third.

Burt's Tar has won three of five career starts and has earned more than $30,000. The son of Star De Naskra ran the six furlongs under Bill Passmore in 1:12 and paid $6.

Miguel Torrealba, acting trainer of the 3-year-old Secreto, has informed Laurel officials that the colt will continue in training and is expected to start in the Washington, D.C. International Oct. 20.

Secreto, reportedly valued at $50 million and jointly owned by Luigi Miglietti of Caracas and Calumet Farm, was submitted to a series of X-rays to determine the severity of what was termed a "stone bruise" in his left forefoot.

X-rays indicated the colt has a deep corn and that the condition is expected to respond to poultice treatment.