D'Youville Nurse administered an antidote to the competition's speed in yesterday's $45,250 Contessa Handicap at Laurel.

The bay filly, whom jockey Kent Desormeaux rated early behind a block of four front-runners, advanced around the turn, took the lead in midstretch and went on to a half-length victory over Zigbelle. Doon's Pleasure was third, more than a length behind the winner, who covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:19 over a fast but deep track.

Desormeaux, 1987's top race-winning jockey, has his 1988 sights on Chris McCarron's single-year record of 546 victories. D'Youville Nurse, 6 to 1, gave the 17-year-old jockey his fifth winner in two days.

The $29,413 victory -- D'Youville Nurse's first in a stakes race -- was the product of Carlos Garcia's careful training and Desormeaux's well-calculated ride.

Laid off nearly six months in 1987 because of a virus, D'Youville Nurse returned in October and won an allowance race at the Meadowlands by seven lengths. Garcia, however, didn't rush the filly; D'Youville Nurse won an allowance race at Laurel four weeks later, then was fourth in a stakes race Dec. 11 at the Meadowlands.

"It wasn't like she was overmatched," Garcia said. "She got into some trouble in that race."

Yesterday, she showed her ability when given room. Said Desormeaux: "There was a ton of speed in the race, so I took her back out of the gate and hoped for position."

In a tightly bunched 10-horse field, D'Youville Nurse was eighth the first quarter-mile, only about five lengths off the lead. As In The Curl, Margaret's Hope, Zigbelle and Supper For Two -- from the rail, respectively -- were gunning for the lead through the backstretch, Desormeaux gradually advanced D'Youville Nurse into contention.

By the head of the stretch, only two of the speedsters remained in front -- Zigbelle and Supper For Two, who under Mark Sellers had been outside the entire trip. At that point, D'Youville Nurse was upon them. Then she mounted a long, trying stretch drive for the win.

Laurel's $2,254,929 handle yesterday marked the first time the track had eclipsed $2 million in wagers on consecutive days. Pimlico once achieved the feat, last May 15 and May 16 (Preakness Day). Those, however, were generated on 10-race cards; Laurel had 12 yesterday, including a simulcast, and 11 on Friday.

In the simulcast Flamingo Stakes from Hialeah Park near Miami, Jorge Velasquez rode Cherokee Colony to victory over Sorry About That. Cefis was third. Cherokee Colony, a son of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony, ran the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds in 1:49 4/5.