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Ops Smile wins Dixie at the wire on Preakness day at Pimlico

May 17, 1997

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A little vacation obviously was all Ops Smile needed.

The 5-year-old roan caught pacesetting Brave Note in the final stride Saturday and won the $200,000 Dixie on Preakness day at Pimlico in only his second start of the year.

``We gave him the winter off. They can’t go all year,″ trainer Bill Boniface said.

Fifth going into the final turn, Ops Smile made a powerful move on the outside and won by a nose in 1:48 1-5 for the 1 1/8 miles on turf. Sharp Appeal was third, another 1 3/4 lengths back.

The victory was the first since last October for Ops Smile, who was ridden by Edgar Prado. He now has won six of 27 lifetime starts.

Brave Note, ridden by Rick Wilson, broke on the lead, setting a slow pace as the field of eight strung out behind him. With a half-mile left, Brave Note still led, followed by Soviet Line, Sharp Appeal, Officious and Ops Smile.

At that point, Prado began to get Ops Smile into position, but he still was fourth entering the stretch. As the eighth-mile pole began to get closer, however, Ops Smile began to roll.

Brave Note was on the inside and Ops Smile on the outside with Sharp Appeal between them as the trio approached the wire. While Sharp Appeal began to fall back, Brave Note appeared ready to head off the challenge until Ops Smile caught him as they ran under the wire together.

``At the end, he was going a hundred miles an hour,″ Prado said of Ops Smile.

The winner, who carried 115 pounds, paid $12, $6.40 and $3.20. The Irish-bred Brave Note, 115, returned $26.60 and $4.80, and Sharp Appeal, 121, half of the favored entry, paid $2.20 for third.

Rare Blend, winless since she captured a pair of stakes at Gulfstream Park in January, scored a mild upset in winning the $200,000 Grade III Pimlico Distaff by 1 1/2 lengths over Scenic Point.

Ridden by Jerry Bailey and trained by Shug McGaughey, Rare Blend came on in the final turn and took the lead entering the stretch, paying $3.80 to win. Time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:51 2-5. Aileen’s Countess was third, another three back, in the field of five.

Bailey said Rare Blend has a tendency to ``pull herself up when she makes the lead. You have to keep after her, and that’s what I did down the lane.″

In the six-furlong Maryland Breeders’ Cup, a $209,600 Grade III race, Cat Be Nimble held off the challenge of Texas invader Political Whit by a head for the win, paying $7.60.

Cat Be Nimble got the lead in the backstretch and held it the rest of the way, although Political Whit nearly got by on the outside at the sixteenth pole.

The win was the third in a row for Cat Be Nimble, ridden by Joseph Rocco and trained by Tim Ritchey. Excelerate was third, another 4 3/4 lengths back. The time was 1:10.

Western Echo, $8.80, beat Suave Prospect by five lengths in the $102,750 William Donald Schaefer Handicap over 1 1/8 miles. Mary’s Buckaroo was 2 1/2 lengths behind Suave Prospect in third. Time was 1:49 2-5.

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