One wouldn't expect Marlboro Race Track to have a race of national significance, and it didn't yesterday.

Marlboro, now the Prince George's Equestrian Center, reawakened for its first of two racing days this year, but a meaningful matchup between the country's two biggest race-winners failed to materialize. Bolting Holme had colic, and so lost a chance to tie top-ranked Jilsie's Gigalo.

"He was real sick for a while, but I think we've got it under control," Bolting Holme trainer Jim Woods said before the race. "Now I've got to hand {the victory} over, and {Jilsie's Gigalo} will probably end up winning the thing."

While Bolting Holme stayed at the Bowie Training Center, Jilsie's Gigalo overcame an eventful first turn and outsprinted three others for his 12th victory in 17 tries this year -- all since late June. Mario Pino, a Maryland regular who wasn't sure how he got the mount, rode Jilsie's Gigalo to a one-length victory at 2-5 odds.

Owner-trainer Linda Kruger had been looking to sell Jilsie's Gigalo earlier this year, but with no takers, she said, "I had to run him." Now her 6-year-old has a two-win lead over Bolting Holme and Why Madie Why, and Kruger said she'll continue to seek the starter-allowance races Jilsie's Gigalo has been mastering.

All Trae won the day's richest race, the $15,000 Marlboro Nursery allowance, with the kind of speedy, rail-oriented performance that was advantageous throughout the card. It was the only mount for Danny Wright, who hadn't raced Marlboro's snug oval in almost 20 years.

On an ideal fall afternoon, a crowd of 7,482 enjoyed Marlboro, which had been a mainstay of the Maryland thoroughbred-racing circuit until it closed in 1972. Some situated themselves in two large, enclosed tents; some sat at picnic tables, others on bleachers. A few brought lawn chairs, but the majority stood under a great blue sky and lined the homestretch, where the horses pass so close the slap of leather is as distinct as hoofbeats.

A stiff breeze caused the finish wire to sway, especially early, and the sharp turns and terse straightaways created more than a few problems. In all, there were five foul claims over 10 races, one of which brought a disqualification.

"For a bullring, this is all right," said jockey Joe "The Flash" Sierra, self-proclaimed master of the half-mile tracks. His approach is time-tested: "You have to prep horses for speed here. I warm my horses up late in the post parade to keep them aggressive in the gate. I ride shorter and carry a lighter stick; wear two pairs of goggles instead of three, and try to trap horses on the inside. I even stopped my wife once in a race."

Sierra, who's still married, was winless. With two, Tony DeSilva was the only multiple-winner jockey.

Now in its third year of re-enlightenment, Marlboro remains as much a social event as a racing place where Runyonesque characters share space with corporate sponsors. The Equestrian Center runs just two of these thoroughbreds programs a year (the next is Wednesday), and there is little of the high tension that surrounds the mile tracks. Yesterday's crowd wagered $378,734, about $90,000 more than opening day last year.

"It's a good place to come back and see your old friends," said trainer Gary Haines, who saddled Charley's Pension to victory. "You don't have to wear a suit and tie. Everything's a lot more laid back."

The purse money is just as real -- although there's significantly less of it -- and the heartbreak as painful. Full Security, a once-promising sprinter, shattered his left knee on the far turn and was destroyed, according to veterinarian David Zipf.

Marlboro is gaining recognition; even the Daily Racing Form sends its first string to call and chronicle the races, although it required some adjustment. Bill Brasaemle, who gives the call, had trouble seeing above an infield trailer at one crucial point. And calltaker Joe Mercier took unusual steps to get the finish call. "Hey, photo finish," he yelled, looking up two levels of scaffolding, "can you yell down the margins?"