BALTIMORE, JULY 5 -- On a bright afternoon, Bill and Joanne Miksa were parked in lawn chairs, reading a Sunday paper. But they weren't getting tan, and they weren't catching up on Saturday's news.

The Miksas sat reading the Daily Racing Form in the grandstand's smoky din at Pimlico Race Course, which, after 117 years, staged Sunday racing for the first time today.

"It's our only opportunity to come to the track together," said Joanne Miksa. "It's good for us. If they can open the stores on Sunday, why not have racing? Now, I'm just waiting for 'em to start Sunday bingo."

Frank De Francis, Pimlico's new owner, received state approval for Sunday racing despite opposition from religious groups and nearby residents. Such resistance, however, appears to be fading, at least among the locals.

"I don't think it's much bother to most people," said Roger Garrett, who lives on Maple Avenue near the intersection at Hayward Avenue, a main artery to Pimlico. "Mostly, this {opposition} was just the imagination of some church people. But people have a right to go to church when they want to and still go to the track. It doesn't have to be one or the other."

Larry Bagby, 28, an Ethelbert Avenue resident, said, "I don't see how traffic bothers people sittin' on their front porch. Since they started talkin' about Sunday racing, it seems the track is doin' a better job of keeping the area clean."

De Francis said that's not a coincidence. "It's part and parcel of our responsibility as a place of entertainment," he said. "I'd like to believe that even the most outspoken antagonists recognize our philosophy to clean up after ourselves and to succeed in being a good neighbor."

Pimlico drew 14,833 patrons and handled a Maryland Sunday-record $1,466,598 today (Laurel Race Course averaged $1,265,239 on Sunday during last year's comparable meeting). However, the figures were enhanced by free parking, admission, programs, giveaways of $11,000 in free wagers and an 11th-race simulcast from Belmont Park.

"All the focus on Sunday racing actually benefited Pimlico," said De Francis. "But that aside, I think Sunday racing will do well for two reasons: Pimlico, being an inner-city track, will be accessible to a greater number of people who work in town during the week. In addition, it will be an easier drive from Washington than on a weekday."

Scotch Heather, trailing her seven opponents with 2 1/2 furlongs to run, rallied between horses to win the $56,800 Lady Baltimore Handicap, beating long shot Shanghai Square by a neck.

Mario Pino rode the 5-year-old gray mare to her third stakes triumph this year, negotiating the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44. Today marked the first time in 10 races this year that Scotch Heather (5 to 2) was the favorite; she has earned $153,074 in 1987, including today's $36,920 payday for owner William Backer.