Stablemate's pace keeps Ops Smile 3rd Win would have been ticket to Breeders' Cup

October 26, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Ops Smile had a chance to make a return trip to the Breeders' Cup turf race with a victory yesterday at Laurel Park.

The hope was that trainer J. William Boniface would make a welcome trip to the winner's circle, smile broadly and proclaim Ops as on the way to Louisville next month.

Boniface showed as expected, but not to have his photo taken with Ops Smile. It was stablemate Manila Magic, who stole both the thunder and the 1 3/16-mile race, holding off John's Call by a neck in the $57,125 Cedar Key Stakes.

This time, the hare beat the tortoise. Manila Magic was in the race to ensure an honest pace for Ops Smile, but jockey Mark Johnston slowed it down sufficiently through the second quarter to guarantee that the winner would have kick remaining through the lane.

Ops Smile, third and beaten only by the length of two necks, came running under Edgar Prado, but couldn't get there after being blocked in on the inside earlier in the race.

"I'll probably race both of them in the Laurel Turf Cup now," said Boniface, referring to a Grade III event here Nov. 11. "In fact, Winsox should be in there, too."

Boniface called Manila Magic "a nice horse if he gets loose on the front end."

The winner never exactly got loose, but he had the lead from the first jump until John's Call pulled even briefly at about the sixteenth pole. The latter looked like a winner at that point before Manila Magic dug in again.

"In the second quarter, we slowed it down," said Johnston. "The horse relaxed real well and got a nice easy lead. I knew they'd have to come get him if they wanted to beat him."

Boniface was reasonably pleased with the effort of Ops Smile, who was beaten by 46 lengths in his previous start at Belmont Park when the pace was leisurely.

"He was trapped a little bit, and then the other horse [John's Call] came to the outside first," said the trainer. "I thought Manila would be on the front end and Ops would come and get him right on the money.

"But he has to get a good trip to do that."

Manila Magic finished the turf event in 1 minute, 54 2/5 seconds, respectable for the distance.

The Laurel Turf Cup -- at 1 1/2 miles on the grass -- is expected to be Ops Smile's final race until he retires to stud duty.

NOTES: Both jockeys injured in a spill Saturday are out of the hospital, although Nik Goodwin may return for more tests. William Moorefield suffered torn ligaments in his left leg. More than 120 parents and children participated in the first Pony Pals gathering of this fall meeting.

Pub Date: 10/26/98

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