02/28/2013 4:18PM

Aqueduct: Johannesburg Smile may benefit from quick pace in Tom Fool


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Though most of his success has come around two turns, Johannesburg Smile showed a new dimension when he finished a good second in the Grade 3 Toboggan at six furlongs last month.

Saturday, Johannesburg Smile will sprint again when he meets nine rivals in the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap going six furlongs at Aqueduct.

With a seeming abundance of speed signed up for the Tom Fool – including California shipper Comma to the Top – Johannesburg Smile should get plenty of pace in which to close under John Velazquez.

“He ran super for us last time out in Toboggan,” said Michael McCarthy, the New York-based assistant for trainer Todd Pletcher. “We said all along maybe he was compromised by the inside post. He gets a better post Saturday and meets some of the same horses . . . There’ll be some pace for sure.”

Comma to the Top is certainly part of the pace equation as he runs back just one week after dueling through a half-mile in 43.88 seconds when third, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Grade 2 San Carlos at Santa Anita.

Trainer Peter Miller said owner Gary Barber asked him if there was any reason not to run Comma to the Top back in the Tom Fool, and Miller said he couldn’t come up with one.

“He’s very sound, carries a lot of weight, is a good traveler, and thrives on activity,” Miller said. “He’s a rare horse. Maybe one or two percent of the horses I train could do this.”

Miller said he also was happy to get the chance to have former California-based Joel Rosario on Comma to the Top, “I never could. That made the decision that much easier.”

Comma to the Top will start from post 2.

Head Heart Hoof, another horse with speed, is coming off two straight stakes wins over the inner track, including the Grade 3 Toboggan. Though Head Heart Hoof sat off a horse for the first furlong that day, trainer Rudy Rodriguez said he prefers to see Head Heart Hoof on the lead.

“Hopefully, he breaks clean and gets himself in a good position,” Rodriguez said. “He rated pretty good last time, but I think I’ll be a lot more comfortable if I see him galloping along on the lead.”

The race drew shippers Off the Jak, from south Florida, and Smash, from Southern California.

Off the Jak won the Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 19 before coming back two weeks later and finishing fourth after getting left at the gate in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint.

Claimed for $12,500 by Shivananda Parbhoo in July 2011, Off the Jak has earned $232,229.

“We claimed this horse for $12,500, and he hasn’t done anything wrong,” Parbhoo said. “The question is can he belong in this caliber of race with these type of racehorses? He did in the Sunshine Millions. He’s training really good right now.”

Smash, trained by Bob Baffert, makes his 5-year-old debut in the Tom Fool. He has raced only once in the last 13 months and will break from post 10 under Irad Ortiz Jr.

Saturday’s Charm, coming off a sharp allowance win from off the pace Feb. 1, the veteran gelding Be Bullish, Consortium, and St Liams Halo complete the field.