Laurel Race Course owner Frank DeFrancis will head to France on Thursday to watch the running of the Arc de Triomphe and look for possible starters for his Washington, D.C. International race on Nov. 16.

DeFrancis also will meet with thoroughbred representatives from England, Sweden, Germany, Ireland and Italy.

"I am optimistic that we will have a truly fine international race," DeFrancis said yesterday.

The International, started in 1952 by Laurel's previous owner, John D. Schapiro, will be run for the first time under the direction of DeFrancis. The purse will be $400,000, with $240,000 guaranteed to the winner. It is a Grade One event run 1 1/2 miles over the turf course.

Gala Minstrel, a 5-year-old daughter of The Minstrel, ran down Glidden, the 7-to-10 favorite, to win the feature at Laurel by two lengths. No No Nicky was third.

Gala Minstrel, trained by Dean Gaudet and ridden by Paul Nicol, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18 over a fast track and paid $21.40.

The career of 18-year-old race announcer Larry Collmus has been put on hold by Laurel owner Frank DeFrancis for the time being. Collmus, who impressed area fans with his calls of the races at Pimlico and Timonium, where he was the back-up announcer, will again be an understudy, this time to Robin Burns, whom DeFrancis brought over from Freestate.

Laurel's first week shows an increase in attendance and mutuel handle over last year. The average attendance is 7,622 and average mutuel handle is $1,056,395, a rise of more than 11 percent for both.