Laurel Race Course offers the second half of its "International Turf Festival" today when the Laurel Futurity and the Selima Stakes will be run on the grass for the first time.
The races, with purses of $250,000 each, are the only Grade I events in the United States for 2-year-olds on the turf. "There had been a tremendous void," Laurel President Frank De Francis said, "and we had a marvelous opportunity to fill it."
Because American 2-year-olds rarely run on the grass, De Francis' aim in shifting the stakes to the turf was to attract good horses from Europe. He had mixed success. The Selima drew a solid contingent of fillies from abroad, but the Futurity attracted a weak field.
Three fillies who have run creditably in Grade I stakes at Longchamp figure to dominate the 11-horse field in the Selima. Seattle Sangue is a superbly bred daughter of Seattle Slew trained by Maurice Zilber, who has won the D.C. International four times. Miss Boniface lost to top-class males by less than two lengths. Minstrel's Lassie won two minor races in the summer and has run well in stakes company.
The top American entrant in the Selima may be Betty Lobelia, who won a maiden turf race at Belmont Park by nine lengths.
Two colts -- Clever Christian and Antigua -- have come from Europe for the Futurity, but both have been running against competition that is less than top-class. So the 14-horse lineup is a wide-open scramble.
The most talented entrant may be Falchion D'Or, a colt trained by Leroy Jolley who won a maiden race impressively at Belmont. But he has never raced on the turf before. The horse with the best grass form in the United States is Kohen Witha K., who won a stakes at Philadelphia Park by more than five lengths.