ELMONT, N.Y. -- The two horses from Maryland running in the $400,000 Turf Classic Invitational yesterday at Belmont Park turned in opposite performances, but retained the same goal: the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf on Nov. 7 at Churchill Downs.
Cetewayo, trained by Michael Dickinson at his Tapeta Farm in Cecil County, finished a credible second to Buck's Boy, the gate-to-wire winner of the 1 1/2 -mile, Grade I stakes on soft turf.
Ops Smile, trained by Bill Boniface at his family's Bonita Farm in Harford County, finished a disappointing fifth in the six-horse field, beating only a horse who was eased.
Each trainer said his horse didn't like the course, drenched from two days of heavy rain.
"He didn't like the going at all," Dickinson said. "He got there on his class and his guts."
Cetewayo, the 3-1 third choice, raced second most of the race, finishing three lengths behind the 3-2 favorite Buck's Boy, 5-year-old gelding ridden by Shane Sellers and trained by Noel Hickey at Delaware Park. The winning time was 2 minutes, 33 1/5 seconds.
John Velazquez, Cetewayo's jockey, said he was pleased with his horse's effort.
"I think he's a much better horse than these on firm ground," Velazquez said.
"I wouldn't trade places with anybody for the Breeders' Cup," he said.
Boniface wasn't so confident, but said he still plans on running Ops Smile in the Breeders' Cup. That is to be the 6-year-old gray horse's last race before retiring to stud at Bonita Farm.
"I was afraid he wouldn't like it," Boniface said of the turf. "But I didn't know it was that soft."
The Turf Classic was one of five Grade I stakes here that make up Breeders' Cup Preview Day. A crowd of 18,360 braved the raw New York afternoon for the upset of Skip Away in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and these other highlights:
Sharp Cat delivered a stunning performance in the $400,000, 1 1/8 -mile Beldame for fillies and mares, winning by 11 lengths and gliding over the sloppy track in 1 minute, 46 1/5 seconds. That was faster than Skip Away's 1: 47 4/5 three weeks ago in the Woodward Stakes.
The effort tied Desert Vixen (1973) for the second-fastest Beldame. Go For Wand (1990) holds the stakes record: 1: 45 4/5.
Sharp Cat, the 2-5 favorite ridden by Corey Nakatani, paid $2.90 to win. The exacta with 7-2 Tomisue's Delight returned $6.70, the trifecta with 47-1 Pocho's Dream Girl third $66.60.
Snit, trained by the Marylander Barclay Tagg, finished sixth in the field of seven.
In the male version of the 2-year-old stakes, The Groom Is Red charged from last to win the $400,000, 1 1/16-mile Champagne Stakes. Trained by Nick Zito, ridden by Nakatani and owned by Rick Pitino's Celtic Pride Stable, the 2-year-old won over Lemon Drop Kid in 1: 42 4/5 and paid $15 to win.
In the fillies stakes, Confessional dominated her four competitors, winning the $400,000, 1 1/16-mile Frizette Stakes by 10 1/2 lengths over the 2-5 favorite Things Change, who was second.
Ridden by Jerry Bailey and trained by Bill Mott, Confessional paid $14.40 to win.
Pub Date: 10/11/98