Horses running close to the rail at Laurel Race Course have been losing with amazing regularity since the meeting opened Jan. 22.

In the last 54 races, only Insense Plaisir closed to win while along the rail for an eighth of a mile on Sunday. Even such reliable performers as Hatched, a filly who had been in the money in her last six starts, finished last while along the rail.

"It may be the dawn of a new day at Laurel for the owners," trainer Bernie Bond said, "but for those of us who have to race over the track, we have to figure out what part is dead and which isn't.

"Everybody's known that the rail was dead; why haven't they fixed it?"

"The track is uniform except for the area approaching the stretch turn," trainer Katie Voss said.

"If a horse has been running there, it's dead for the stretch run."

Frank DeFrancis, Laurel's new owner, said he was "surprised when I heard that the press feels that the rail is dead. We've measured the density and found it to be uniform. However, the statistics are overwhelming and we are in business to please our customers, so we'll have a go at it on Wednesday when the track is dark. If it needs work, we'll get it done."

Laurel has accrued the biggest pick-six carryover so far this meeting, $31,623.20. That figure is expected to reach well past the $50,000 mark today. The highest pick-six pool in Maryland was the $77,349.90 accumulated at Bowie Dec. 17. On that day the largest one-day pick-six pool of $39,048 was wagered.

Donald Miller leads the riders with 10 winners after the first week of the meeting, two more than Alberto Delgado. King Leatherbury is the leading trainer with five, one more than arch rival Ron Alfano.

Pimlico Race Course and Home Team Sports have agreed that the cable network will televise the races for the upcoming 72-day meeting.

Decopade, a 4-year-old who had run second in her last three starts, found the winner's circle yesterday when she closed strongly on the outside to neck out Fortunate in the feature at Laurel.

Tom Kupfer drove the daughter of Icecapade over the finish line in 1:13 2/5 for the six furlongs. She paid $9.40 and topped an 8-5 exacta worth $36.