A power failure prevented the last seven races on the card at Laurel yesterday.

Three races had been run and horses were heading to the starting gate for the fourth when most of the tote machines stopped functioning, lights on the odds board went out, televisions went blank and the public-address system went dead. The problem was eventually traced to two burned-out underground cables connecting a transformer to the track.

"You could smell the burnt wires in the stable area," said plant superintendent Gary Hefner.

Fans were kept in the dark -- figuratively, and to some extent literally -- from 2:20 p.m., when the power went off, until power was partially restored at 4:02 p.m., when the public-address system functioned long enough for announcer Milo Perrins to tell the crowd what was happening. Baltimore Gas and Electric was still trying to find the source of the problem, and the card was canceled.

Today's 12-race program, featuring the $100,000 Columbia Stakes and a simulcast of the Vosburgh Stakes from Belmont Park, will be run as scheduled, with post time at 1 p.m.

A crowd of 4,719 at Laurel and 2,025 at Pimlico had attended yesterday's aborted program, wagering $291,794 on the three races. The most frustrated bettors probably were the ones who hit the first half of the double triple, in the third race, and would have had a chance to exchange their tickets for a shot at the $48,865. With the cancellation of races, they got only a consolation payout, and no crack at the big money.