Thirty Eight Go Go needed a strong showing in the Gala Lil Handicap to keep her residence at the racetrack. Then her roommate tried to evict her.

Wait for the Lady waited for no one yesterday at Laurel.

The big filly burst to the lead immediately and showed surprising resolution in beating nine horses -- and a host of horseplayers -- in the $56,300 Gala Lil.

She carried 16-1 odds on doubts about her class and endurance, then rebuffed them in 1:45 2/5. Thirty Eight Go Go, her stablemate, was powerless to stop her.

Crowned, the 3-1 favorite, stalked the winner at every turn but failed to get within 1 1/2 lengths of her. But Rick Wilson's ride was no more frustrating than that of Mark Johnston, who tried in vain to advance Thirty Eight Go Go early, then sat in wonder as she unleashed a very powerful kick very late to take third.

"She just wouldn't get in gear when I wanted her to," Johnston said. "Early on, she was jumping shadows and getting real erratic."

Trainer King Leatherbury had said Thirty Eight Go Go would either recapture her old form or prepare to retire as a broodmare, but the gray mare's status was no more certain following the Gala Lil. After saddling Thirty Eight Go Go and Wait for the Lady, Leatherbury left for an engagement in Aberdeen, Md., and didn't see the race.

Johnston said Thirty Eight Go Go galloped out with no difficulty, and assistant trainer George Borden indicated she would remain in training to pursue $1 million. At her present rate, that might take a while; Thirty Eight Go Go earned $6,193 yesterday to reach $867,629 and has only one victory in her last 14 tries.

Wait for the Lady, meanwhile, entered a new dimension. Leatherbury, who claimed her from Jim Murphy for $25,000 in May, wasn't entirely set on running her in the Gala Lil off an allowance victory four weeks ago, but he knew she had the speed to lead. The question was how long she would last.

The mount on Wait for the Lady remained unsecured midway through the program before Leatherbury named Alberto Delgado. They once had been a formidable team during Delgado's fruitful days; but with his drop in the standings, Delgado moved lower among Leatherbury's preferred riders.

"When you move down to fourth or fifth on the list, you have to hope the top few are taken, and even then there's no guarantee," said Eric Fried, Delgado's agent.

Delgado guided Wait for the Lady to the lead from Post 3 and went about slowing her down as much as possible. The first fractions were fast -- a quarter-mile in 23 1/5, a half in 46 4/5 -- but Delgado said he thought his filly was comfortable, and she did nothing to disprove it. Crowned never even reached the pacesetter's tail as Wait for the Lady scored by 2 1/2 lengths in her first stakes race.

Thirty Eight Go Go (5-1) finished two lengths behind Crowned.

Wait for the Lady paid $34.60 and was the subject of a spare winner's circle gathering. Like Leathherbury, owners Nick and Elaine Bassford of Davidsonville were somewhere else, but $33,780 richer.

Laurel Notes:

Prominent British owner Robert Sangster has sold a half-interest in Haymaker to Prestonwood Farm of Kentucky, according to David Lambert, Sangster's North American representative. The price was not disclosed, but Lambert said Haymaker would remain in Maryland under the training of Carlos Garcia. . . .

Travelling Man failed a drug test following a second-place finish Jan. 4, which brought trainer Sandra Stancer a 15-day suspension that began yesterday. . . . Jockey Edgar Prado will be in Florida today to ride Miss Josh in the Joe Namath Handicap at Gulfstream Park.