07/06/2001 11:00PM

Smile Again wins by a neck


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Smile Again set a quick pace and held off a late rally from Freedom Crest to win Saturday's $100,000 Bel Air Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr., Smile Again ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.74, winning by a neck over Freedom Crest, who was making his first start since finishing last in the San Antonio Handicap in February. Dig for It finished third in the field of six.

Smile Again and Lesters Boy fought for the lead until the final turn when Lesters Boy faded from contention. Pincay had Smile Again on the lead turning for home, but was quickly challenged by Freedom Crest. The two ran together to the finish, but Smile Again was able to hold off his rival.

The Grade 2 Bel Air Handicap was the most prestigious win of the 6-year-old Smile Again's 18-race career and his first stakes win since the 1999 Forty Niner Handicap at Golden Gate Fields. Smile Again paid $19.20 to win.

* A quick break gave favored Georgia Storm an insurmountable advantage in the $108,400 Landaluce Stakes. Breaking from the outside in the field of seven 2-year-old fillies, Georgia's Storm led from the first jump and quickly angled over, running just off the rail on the backstretch. She led by a length around the turn and was never threatened, winning by 1 1/4 lengths under Chris McCarron.

Trained by Eduardo Inda for Reinaldo Martinez, Georgia's Storm ran the six furlongs in 1:10.45. She paid $4.

"She breaks so good every time," Inda said. "I've always known she's good from the gate. She ran super."

Respectful, who was third in the Cinderella Stakes, finished second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Who Loves Aleyna. Miss Jeanne Cat, a stakes winner at Bay Meadows on June 9, finished fourth, and was followed by Roaring Blaze, Ile de France, and Siphina.

The Grade 3 Landaluce Stakes was Georgia's Storm's second stakes win, coming a month after her win in the Cinderella Stakes. A California-bred, Georgia's Storm's victory in the Landaluce marked the first graded stakes winner for her freshman sire, Illinois Storm.