07/23/2003 11:00PM

Quick Smoke right at home for Oaks


EAST BOSTON, Mass. - Eight 3-year-old fillies will try to follow the show the New England 3-year-old colts and geldings put on in last week's Suffolk Downs Derby with their own inaugural race, the $35,000 Suffolk Downs Oaks.

This year's crop of local 3-year-olds has been surprisingly strong, and Strike 'N Go's nose victory over Boston Fox in last week's derby was the culmination of a much-anticipated clash. The fillies haven't been as flashy, but the group gathered for Saturday's Oaks has potential.

Quick Smoke has won 2 of 3 since shipping to Boston after a winter-spring campaign at Churchill, Fair Grounds, and Oaklawn for owner John D. Murphy. After winning her maiden in Kentucky, she was competitive on those tougher circuits but didn't break through with another win until Murphy shipped her here to his hometown track and trainer Frank Shannon.

"I don't know if it's the easier competition, or the track, or if Mr. Murphy wanted to see one of his horses win in person," said Shannon, speculating on why Quick Smoke was sent to Suffolk. "I do know she was already improving when she got here, and she's been acting better and doing better the whole time."

Quick Smoke will have some distance questions heading into the mile and 70-yard Oaks. Murphy is also the filly's breeder and is well aware that her sire, Smoke Glacken, was a sprint champion. It means both Murphy and Shannon will weigh this chance at a stakes win against any six-furlong opportunities arising over the next few days. Quick Smoke did race around two turns at the Fair Grounds, so the trip won't be a completely new experience.

The rising star in the division is Megan's Halo, who has won three straight for owner-trainer John Assimakopolous. The open-length scores swept her through her allowance conditions.

Island Melody will try to prove that her win in the My Fair Lady Stakes was no fluke. She has started in five stakes this year, finishing no worse than fourth in each attempt despite long odds every time. Since her My Fair Lady win she has run second and sixth in a pair of allowance races.

It might be appropriate that jockey Winston Thompson will ride Comeback to Me, as both will ship up from Monmouth Park. Thompson was second in the rider standings at Suffolk when he left to ride on the Jersey Shore this summer. He will be aboard a filly who upset an allowance race on Monmouth's opening weekend in May over a sloppy track for trainer Paul Parisi Jr. When Thompson last returned here he won a stakes June 21 aboard Stylish Sultan.

Perfecta players should note the presence of Roshnetti in the field and her nine seconds from 19 starts. Her last two races were agonizing to anyone hoping she would win. She was beaten just a neck last time out and was nearly in a triple dead heat in her prior race, finishing tied for second, just a nose behind the winner.