08/18/2006 11:00PM

A clean start would send Sweet Sweet on her way

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Stephanie Van Minos / Tom Cooley
Sweet Sweet, winning the Arctic Queen, looks like the one to catch in Monday's Union Avenue.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Sweet Sweet had a sour start to the Saratoga meet, stumbling badly at the break of the Rogues Walk Stakes on opening day before chasing a hot pace and tiring to last as the 6-5 favorite.

Sweet Sweet will have a chance to make amends Monday, when she heads a seven-horse field entered in the $70,000 Union Avenue Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares at six furlongs.

Before the Rogues Walk, Sweet Sweet had gone 4 for 5 against New York-bred competition, including a two-length score in the Arctic Queen Stakes at Finger Lakes on July 4. Trainer Mike Hushion said he thought he had Sweet Sweet ready for another solid effort until he got to the paddock.

"She was a little out of character in the paddock, a little more wound up than usual, a little more out of character in the gate," Hushion said. "We've had her twice to the paddock, twice to the gate since, and everything seems fine."

When the gates opened in the Rogues Walk, Sweet Sweet went to her knees and then rushed up along the rail before tiring by the quarter pole. Hushion said he figured the stumble cost her the race.

"That's what I'm guessing," Hushion said. "A case can be made it knocks the wind out of them a little bit, too."

Sweet Sweet does her best running when she can dictate the pace, which could be the case Monday provided she breaks well.

"I don't see anything that can go with her," Hushion said. "I would say we're going to go. That's her game."

Gold Like U will most likely be favored in the Union Avenue. She won two open-company allowance races at Aqueduct in the spring, before finishing second to Stormy Kiss and Grecian Lover in open-company races at Belmont.

What is disconcerting about Gold Like U is that she's been beaten five of the six times she's gone off the favorite, including three times in statebred company.

Fighting Speedy and Royal Fudge could offer some value in the Union Avenue. Trainer Leah Gyarmati was pointing Fighting Speedy to the Rogues Walk but had to skip the race because Fighting Speedy had some hind-end problems after getting sick. Fighting Speedy, who won an allowance race here last year, blew out a sharp three furlongs in 35.40 seconds Thursday.

Royal Fudge had a wide trip when she finished fourth in the Rogues Walk last out. She finished fourth in this race last year coming off an allowance win.