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Night Ops Clears Away Late in Essex
Coady Photography

Night Ops Clears Away Late in Essex

HOT SPRINGS, AR – Steve Landers Racing’s Night Ops split foes gamely before getting up to and past the leader, then cleared away late to capture Saturday’s $350,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

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Breaking from post 2 under Joe Talamo at 6/1 odds, Night Ops raced within range of early leader Snapper Sinclair, who posted opening fractions of :23.86, :48.50, and 1:12.97. Pioneer Spirit kept closest watch on the pacesetter and inched up to emerge leading narrowly at the top of the stretch.

Snapper Sinclair rebid along the rail and refused to yield to Pioneer Spirit, but behind them, Night Ops was rallying with a strong push after splitting foes in the turn. Surging past the foes in mid-stretch, Night Ops drew off under a continued drive for victory.

The Brad Cox trainee crossed 1 1/4 lengths clear in a final time of 1:44.09 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the sloppy (sealed) main track.

“He handled (the mud) fine,” Talamo said. “He was getting over it really well. I had a lot of horse the whole way, so it was just a matter of getting out when I could. He’s one of those horses, definitely have to ride him. He doesn’t give it to you easy, but when he does, he gives you everything he’s got.”

Snapper Sinclair fought gamely along the rail through to the wire, defeating Pioneer Spirit by a 1/2-length. Bravazo necked out Guest Suite for fourth, while behind them came Laughing Fox and Bankit to complete the order of finish.

Night Ops’ win was his third in his past four starts, with his lone defeat coming two back when he finished third in the Fifth Season Stakes. The 4-year-old son of Warrior’s Reward improved his record to 16-5-3-2 with $554,356 earned.

Night Ops returned $15 to win, $6.60 to place, and $3.80 to show. Snapper Sinclair brought back $5.20 to place and $3.40 to show, while Pioneer Spirit paid $3 to show.

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