In the "twilight" of his career, trainer Vinnie Blengs has stumbled into a great adventure. Saturday, at a track he hardly intended to join, he'll have the favorite in the $300,000 Selima Stakes with a filly he had tried to discard.

When he turned 60 last year, Blengs reasoned to leave his cherished Massachusetts amid racing-industry unrest. He had intended to try Monmouth Park in New Jersey until a friend, former Laurel official Bob DeStasio, coaxed him here. It was the first of two strange twists that have cast Fashion Miss in a starring role Saturday.

"The day I shipped my horses in, he {DeStasio} quit," Blengs said in vivid Bostonese. "He said, 'I was homesick.' I said, 'Homesick? You ran away when you were 13.' "

Blengs had begun consolidating his stable by trimming undesirables and so decided to embrace Maryland, which was suited to his higher-quality stock. He also had security in training for Cammie Grimmo, a breeder who happened to be his wife's uncle.

"I figured he couldn't fire me," Blengs said. "I married his niece."

When Grimmo died last year, Blengs inherited 17 horses. "I said, 'We can't be carrying 17 horses; we'll have to give some of them away,' " he said. "I put Fashion Miss in a sale, gave one to my blacksmith and sold one for $2,800."

His thought to auction Fashion Miss was well-researched; her mother, Fashion Point, "couldn't run," which is to say she couldn't run fast. Her son, Yuppie Fashion, inherited that trait, and it was he Blengs peddled to a farrier. "Better that way than feeding him," he said.

Fashion Miss was a full sister to Yuppie Fashion -- both having been sired by Explosive Bid -- and tiny as well. Blengs sent her to an Ocala, Fla., sale ealier this year without even watching her work out.

Each horse in the sale was required to make two firm trial runs before the auction. A friend of Blengs's happened to see the first workout, and was so impressed he phoned Blengs for fear the filly might be sold too cheaply. Blengs reluctantly placed a $25,000 reserve on Fashion Miss, then questioned himself after it nullified a bid of $17,000.

As Blengs watched the filly develop his worries faded, and he realized this was no Yuppie Fashion; same manufacturer, different design. He placed the 2-year-old in a $50,000 claiming race for nonwinners, and she won her first start by three lengths, leading throughout.

Blengs knew Explosive Bid's offspring like turf -- Caltech, last year's Budweiser International winner, is one example -- and he tried Fashion Miss on the grass with the Selima Stakes a distant vision. The Selima became clearer after Fashion Miss won the allowance race, this time rallying from fourth.

To date she has won three of five starts, including the designated Selima "prep," the Queen Empress Stakes. A fourth victory eluded her in the Fair Star Stakes, when she was squeezed back to last place at the start, then made up 15 lengths in a half-mile to finish second.

Although prominent jockeys from two continents will be at Laurel for this weekend's International Turf Festival, Blengs is sticking with Edgar Prado. "He's the best around here," Blengs said. "He knows the filly. He worked her {three furlongs in 36 3/5 seconds} this morning, which was just what I wanted."

Fashion Miss was made the early 9-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Selima, which attracted only seven 2-year-old fillies. One of them is Majesty's Bloom, a well-bred New Yorker trained by LeRoy Jolley who has been subjected to neither turf nor distance in three starts, two of them victorious. Blengs took no comfort knowing the filly is by His Majesty, an accomplished turf sire.

"LeRoy doesn't go anyplace with an empty wagon," Blengs said.