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In photo, 'Ops' has reason to smile Brave Note jockey Wilson can't believe eyes after being nosed out in Dixie; Notebook

In a blanket finish, Ops Smile edged long shot Brave Note in the Grade II, $200,000 Dixie, the headliner on the Preakness undercard yesterday.

Trained by Bill Boniface, Ops Smile rallied steadily on the outside and appeared to the naked eye to just miss. The win photo said differently, Ops Smile prevailing by a nose in one of the nation's oldest stakes, which began in 1870.

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"I can't believe we got beat," said Brave Note's jockey, Rick Wilson. "I thought we had it."

Brave Note set the pace on a track favoring speed, moved over to the rail and began digging in during the midstretch. Meanwhile, Edgar Prado was steadily moving Ops Smile.

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"My horse is the type that you can settle with, take back and see what the horses ahead are doing. At about the half-mile pole, he started going about his business," Prado said.

Prado was feeling comfortable at the three-eighths pole, but, he said, Brave Note "hung on very well. At the end he was going a hundred miles an hour."

Boniface said Ops Smile probably will enter the Manhattan on Belmont Stakes day and perhaps the Caesar's in Atlantic City, N.J.

"From the box, I thought we got beat," said the trainer. "But then when I got to see the rerun, I thought we might have won."

Cat Be Nimble is quick

Going all-out to fend off Political Whit, Cat Be Nimble held on by a head under Joe Rocco to capture the $209,600 Maryland Breeders' Cup for older sprinters.

The Grade III event was the first in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship Series.

Cat Be Nimble set a brisk pace, with fractions of 22 2/5 and 44 4/5 seconds, to score his third straight impressive victory and fourth in the past five outings.

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"He's on top of his game," said trainer Tim Ritchey. "He's one of the nicest horses, if not the best I've ever trained. I think it helped to train over the deeper track at Delaware Park and then run on this faster track here."

Appealing Skier -- the bettors' choice, whose credentials include a victory over Unbridled's Song -- was never a factor.

"There was some trouble in the race. He got knocked around leaving [the gate]," said trainer Ben Perkins Sr. "I hope he came out of it OK."

Western Echo rolls

With Richie The Coach out of the race, Western Echo had things his way on the front end and went wire-to-wire in the $102,750 William Donald Schaefer Handicap.

The winner drew away from Nick Zito-trained Suave Prospect to prevail by five lengths.

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A slow pace, with fractions of 24 seconds and 47 4/5, didn't hurt Western Echo in the opener of the MATCH series for older horses going a distance. He finished 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 49 2/5 seconds.

"We kind of figured there wasn't much speed in the race," said Western Echo's trainer, Buddy Delp. "When Richie The Coach scratched, I was kind of happy. We figured we'd get a good clean break and get to the lead. He kind of likes it that way."

Rare Blend takes Distaff

Rare Blend, the favorite, came from off the pace to overtake front-running Aileen's Countess and win the Grade III Pimlico Distaff at 1 1/8 miles.

Only five vied for the $200,000 purse, with long shot Scenic Point rallying for second.

Local runner Churchbell Chimes, the second choice, ran last. Trainer Bill Boniface said she was bumped on the first turn and cut her hind pastern.

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Prado wins three in row

Prado completed three straight triumphs by taking the $75,000 Sir Barton aboard Two Smart. That gave Prado four wins on the card. He didn't have a horse in the Preakness.

Pub Date: 5/18/97


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