Willowy Mood stayed near the early pacesetters, then edged away from Aerturas in the stretch to close out Laurel's highly successful winter meeting with a three-quarter-length upset victory in the $125,600 Barbara Fritchie Handicap yesterday.
The winner of the race for older fillies and mares was the second-longest shot in a field of nine. She clocked 1:25 2/5 over a track labeled good and was ridden by veteran Buck Thornburg.
The winning mutuel was $61.20 and the exacta returned $326.80 to those in the crowd of 12,021 who wagered on the 2-8 combination.
Alabama Nana, part of the favored entry trained by Eclipse Award winner D. Wayne Lukas, finished another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and her stablemate, Gene's Lady, the 121-pound topweight ridden by Angel Cordero Jr., was fourth. Cordero said his horse "laid a little closer to the pace than I wanted."
Willowy Mood is owned by Charlotte C. Polin of Princeton, N.J., and earned $73,840 for the victory, bringing her career earnings to $295,000. She has won eight races in 20 starts.
Yesterday's running of the Barbara Fritchie was its 33rd. The race had been a fixture at Bowie in past years.
The upset capped a highly successful 118-day meet for Laurel, as thoroughbred racing moves to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore today.
Laurel, in its first full winter meeting under the ownership of Frank DeFrancis and brothers Bob and Tom Manfuso, showed a daily average attendance of 7,955 fans, an increase of 12.5 percent over comparable dates last year. Betting handle reached $1,182,349, an increase of 10.7 percent.
DeFrancis, who built the Sports Palace that received national attention, said yesterday, "I'm overjoyed. We're showing double-digit increases in both vital categories and, most importantly, have headed off the downward trend that had pervaded our industry for so long."
At Pimlico, eight Triple Crown nominees are among a contingent of 18 3-year-olds entered in the two divisions of today's $85,650 General George Stakes at 1 1/16th miles. The track, with improvements worth $1.2 million, will be embarking on its longest racing season (90 days) since its inception 115 years ago. The focal point of the meeting will be the 111th running of the $350,000-added Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, to be run May 17.