Eddie Gaudet knows Star Touch has a future. He's just not sure where.

Star Touch went into the Maryland City Handicap yesterday an unproven sprinter and came out something different. He dominated seven others at Laurel to win the $54,800 race by 3 1/2 lengths, that after circling the field around the turn.

The authoritative run was a haunting kind for trainer Gaudet because Star Touch is one of the horses he inherited from John Parisella's New York stable. Parisella frequently sends Gaudet horses who are too slow, too infirm or too likely to bleed to make it in New York, where Lasix is not allowed. It's a process that breeds irony: The horses Gaudet revives can become short-term projects if they're good enough to contend in New York, and after yesterday there were two such candidates in his stable: Star Touch and Country Day.

Gaudet was diplomatic last week after Country Day won an allowance race at Laurel. Knowing he'll probably have the 3-year-old for just one more race, he said, "That's the way our system works." But Star Touch is a horse he doesn't want to lose.

"Country Day is a 3-year-old who wants to run all day and half the night and doesn't need the medication {Lasix} as much as" Star Touch, Gaudet said. "Star Touch is a more difficult horse. I think it would be jeopardizing a horse with a future."

Gaudet received Star Touch in mid-September, the 4-year-old colt having been fifth or worse in five straight starts, three of them allowance races. Star Touch qualified as a bleeder and in his first start with Lasix Oct. 2 he ran six furlongs at Laurel in a swift 1:09.

Yesterday, the 7-1 shot left the gate in a well-matched field of eight, and not too deftly. He was last as Six Speed, the 5-2 favorite, broke away to an easy lead over Smelly.

Jockey Mike Luzzi, who widened his lead for the meeting with three victories yesterday, had a strong hold on Star Touch early. "I wanted to sit off the pace because speed had been stopping all day," Luzzi said, but near the turn he acceded to his mount.

While Smelly began moving up on Six Speed, Star Touch rallied four-wide into the turn. He stayed the course into the stretch and advanced outside of Six Speed and Smelly.

The three were abreast with about an eighth-mile left before Star Touch powered past. He broadened his lead without untoward encouragement from Luzzi and finished seven furlongs in 1:23 3/5.

Smelly, in his second race following a six-month layoff, finished determinedly but a neck behind Six Speed. Jeweler's Choice rallied after angling out in midstretch to wind up a neck behind Smelly.

Fire Plug fell well short of his 25th victory with an uncharacteristic outing. The 119-pound highweight finished last after placing third or better in 16 of 17 starts the past two years.