Trainer Howard Wolfendale's amazing winning percentage improved at Laurel yesterday as his three winners included first-time starter Colonel Hill, who handily won the $75,000 Devil's Bag Stakes for Maryland-bred 2-year-olds.
Forty-five days into Laurel's fall meet, Wolfendale has won 19 races in 42 starts -- a 45 percent winning mark. Even so, he said he was surprised to win the Devil's Bag.
"Against this quality of horses, I was," he said after his first stakes victory since receiving his trainer's license in 1977. "We had to make this race for the Maryland Juvenile Championship."
That $150,000 race on Dec. 8 is expected to be Colonel Hill's next start if the colt stays sound.
Wolfendale credited owner-breeder Victor F. DiVivo for deciding to pass up easier races in favor of the Devil's Bag Stakes. "He kind of insisted," Wolfendale said.
Colonel Hill broke slowly but jockey Mike Luzzi quickly recovered and placed the Temperence Hill colt in second position along the rail behind pacesetter Haymaker.
At the top of the stretch, Luzzi, using a left-handed whip, angled Colonel Hill off the rail, passed Haymaker and coasted to a three-length victory in 1:25 2/5 for the seven furlongs. Haymaker was second for Marco Castaneda. Rick Wilson took third with Axial Rift.
Highly touted Gala Spinaway showed little and finished fifth as the 7-to-10 favorite. "No excuse," said jockey Gregg McCarron, "He just didn't run a yard."
Luzzi had the horse that was ready to run. "He sat in there behind like he knew what he was doing," Luzzi said. "Nothing green about him at all."
Colonel Hill returned $11 although his past performances showed only several workouts and no parimutuel starts.
Despite his third-place finish in the feature race, jockey Wilson won four consecutive races.