Laurel Race Course opened its fall season yesterday with a spirited revival. It was a day that saw close finishes, rekindled a career and sustained broad hopes for the owner of one small filly.

It was Edgar Prado's kind of day.

After dominating the just-completed Pimlico meet, jockey Prado turned his attentions to Laurel, where he won four races yesterday. The last came atop Fashion Miss, a dark little filly who passed two horses in the final yards to win the $60,000 Queen Empress Stakes.

It was the third race on the program in which the top three finishers were separated by a half-length or less.

The one-mile Queen Empress became a test of resolve. Prado was not sure Fashion Miss had the substance to get past dueling front-runners Aca Joy and favored Private Treasure as the wire got closer, but there was no time to ponder.

"Until they pass the wire, I keep trying," he said.

Fashion Miss rallied to a half-length victory over Aca Joy, who finished a head in front of third-place Private Treasure, ridden by Craig Perret. The three covered the firm course in 1:37 3/5, Fashion Miss paying $6.20 to win as second choice of 11.

Although the Queen Empress is a means of entry to next month's Selima Stakes, owner-trainer Vinnie Blengs would not commit Fashion Miss. (The filly would have to be supplemented at a cost of $15,000.)

"We'll have to take a little time to sort this out," Blengs said. "I'll say this: She's small, but she's great."

Friendly Pete's $9,000 payday in the seventh race was a quarter of Fashion Miss's, but Robert Beall was no less gratified. His able but temperamental sprinter had gone more than a year without winning, even after Beall gelded him and dropped him into claiming races.

Jockey Mike Luzzi directed the tenuous, head-long victory without benefit of a whip -- Friendly Pete disdains them -- and managed to get the 7-year-old to sustain himself between horses.

"For a while, he wouldn't run between horses," Beall said of the onetime allowance-caliber horse he bred, owns and trains. "You'd have to take him back and whirl him around because he wouldn't go through."

Even during his long winless spell, Friendly Pete effectively tantalized Beall -- as well as numerous handicappers -- with his penchant for fast workouts. But those sparkling sessions seemed to vanish into afternoon air.

"In the morning, he'll whip anybody," said Beall, who ships Friendly Pete from his Friend's Choice Farm in Davidsonville to Bowie for workouts. "He's what you'd call a morning glory. He worked 58 {seconds for five furlongs} the other day so easy, it'd make you sick."

So what does yesterday's resurgence indicate?

"Nothing," Beall said. "Just that we'll have to watch him the next time."

TV Program Missed

Laurel Race Course is looking into reviving the recently canceled "Maryland Racing" program, according to Simulcasting Director Dennis Smoter.

"We should know more in a couple of weeks," he said.

Since WFTY-TV-50 terminated the half-hour show earlier this month, Laurel's video-replay libraries have had greater use, Smoter said. It was not uncommon for horseplayers to tape "Maryland Racing" for handicapping purposes, the 11 p.m. broadcast replaying each day's races from Laurel or Pimlico.

According to track vice president Jim Mango, the station was furnished a list of dates on which the replays would be necessary, a schedule that did not include races during Timonium's short meeting. Sonya Long, WFTY's program coordinator, said the station received no such schedule and consequently was left with a void when no tape arrived for Aug. 25, the day Timonium opened.

Long said the station had intended to cancel the program last Monday as it realigned its fall schedule.