01/05/2005 12:00AM

Violette's latest hopeful

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Qualified Opinion, winning an allowance race Dec. 16, makes his two-turn debut in Saturday's Count Fleet.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - At this time last year, trainer Rick Violette had an accomplished New York-bred 3-year-old he thought could be a player on the Triple Crown trail. Although Qualified Opinion may not be another Read the Footnotes, he has done some things in his first two races to get Violette excited.

After winning his first two starts, both sprinting, Qualified Opinion will stretch out for the first time in Saturday's $75,000 Count Fleet Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct.

As a son of With Approval out of an Irish-bred mare, Qualified Opinion is seemingly more suited for marathon turf races than dirt sprints. But Qualified Opinion has won both of his races at six furlongs, including an improbable victory last month in a New York-bred entry-level allowance heat.

In that race, Qualified Opinion had one horse beat turning for home and was not even in the picture inside the sixteenth pole, but he unleashed a powerful stretch kick to nab loose-on-the-lead Rob's Boy Mat by a half-length.

"He's 2 for 2 doing something he's not bred to do, and his turn of foot was incredible last time," Violette said Wednesday from Florida. "You can't win races like that over the inner track. Granted, the pace was quick, and that helped us, but they didn't collapse into his face."

Violette said he is hopeful that Qualified Opinion will be able to handle the two turns of the Count Fleet, which is run at a mile and 70 yards.

"He's certainly supposed to be a turf horse, and sometimes real turfers can sprint really well, then they can't run long on dirt. But you run them on grass and they run a mile and a half," Violette said. "I think he's better than that, and he had a brilliant breeze the other day."

Qualified Opinion drilled five furlongs in 1:00.25 on Sunday over the inner track. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Qualified Opinion in the Count Fleet.

A large field is expected for the Count Fleet, and should the race draw 16 entries, racing secretary Mike Lakow said he would be inclined to split the race. Otherwise, the field will be limited to 12 starters.

Others considered definite for the Count Fleet are Benjamin Baby, Byanosejoe, Daddy Joe, Father Weist, Heza Storm, Interline, Killenaule, Lakeville Rush, Lucky Alarm, Naughty New Yorker, Scrappy T, and Tani Maru.

Coast Line seeks fourth straight

Coast Line looms the main speed in Friday's featured third-level allowance race, in which he seeks his fourth straight victory.

After finishing fourth and getting injured in his debut in 2003 at Saratoga, Coast Line, a 4-year-old gelding, has reeled off three straight wins, including a three-quarter-length score over the inner track Dec. 16. Coast Line overcame a bobble at the start to win that race. In his previous two starts, Coast Line went gate to wire.

Mahzouz, who has finished out of the money just once in his last eight starts, looms the main threat. Norberto Arroyo Jr. rides for trainer Laurie Lafavers. Ghost Mountain, Dial a Hero, and Wanaka complete the lineup.

Megascape eyes Dearly Precious

Megascape came out of her victory in Sunday's Ruthless Stakes in good order and will most likely remain in New York and point to the $75,000 Dearly Precious Stakes here Feb. 21.

"We've got two of the same kind at Fair Grounds already in More Moonlight and Coronado's Rose, so I imagine she's staying here," said Toby Sheets, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.

The Dearly Precious, run at six furlongs, "would be the logical spot," Sheets said, though he added that plans are not definite.

Megascape is 2 for 2 at Aqueduct, with both wins in stakes. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 80 for winning the Ruthless.

Smith to resume riding Saturday

Jockey Ariel Smith, who suffered a hairline fracture of his nose in a four-horse spill Sunday, will likely return Saturday, his agent, Jorge Velasquez, said. Smith took off two mounts Wednesday and three Thursday. He was not named on anything for Friday.

"His knee is also sore, but neither injury is that serious," Velasquez said. "He just needs a little time. He is going to try to ride again this weekend."

Two jockeys unseated but unhurt

Eriluis Vaz and Fernando Jara escaped injury despite being involved in a spill in Wednesday's fifth race. Vaz was aboard Crimson Code, who clipped heels with She'stenontop at the five-sixteenths pole. Vaz was unseated, as was Jara after his mount, On the Edge, couldn't avoid hitting Crimson Code's back end.

Earlier on the card, Vaz swept the early daily double. He had no more mounts on the card. Jara came back to take the feature aboard Provincial.

* Jockey Jose Espinoza was involved in a minor traffic accident on his way to the track Wednesday and had to take off one of his two mounts while waiting to fill out a police report.