10/17/2006 12:00AM

Defeated, yes, but they had an excuse


Take nothing away from Green Vegas. He has improved dramatically since capturing the Foolish Pleasure Stakes in his two-turn debut last month, and he certainly was a deserving winner of Saturday's $400,000 In Reality Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. To his credit, Green Vegas was also good enough to take advantage when his two chief rivals in the In Reality, Straight Faced and Villainage, were dealt with adversity in the race.

Straight Faced entered the In Reality undefeated and with a chance to become the sixth 2-year-old to sweep the open division of the Florida Stallion Stakes. But Straight Faced, the 3-5 favorite under leading rider Manoel Cruz, wound up in a gut-wrenching pace battle with the 74-1 Hold'em or Fold'em for the opening five furlongs and was quickly faced with a second challenge when Imawildandcrazyguy got through along the rail and stuck his head in front leaving the backstretch. Straight Faced ultimately succumbed from all the pressure after being engaged by a fresh Green Vegas turning for home and finished a game but tiring fourth.

"It might have been poor judgment on the rider's part to go head to head with the longshot like that, but then again, if he took too much hold of him and tried to take back, he could have wound up fighting the horse and taking him out of his game," said Stephen DiMauro, who trains Straight Faced. "All in all, I thought my horse ran well being pressed so hard like he was, and to his credit he ran every step of the way. Naturally, I'm disappointed we didn't win, but you see this kind of thing happen a lot in the business when a heavy favorite becomes a target in a big stakes."

DiMauro said he's not convinced that Straight Faced won't stay a distance of ground, but he plans to turn Straight Faced back to seven furlongs for the $150,000 Jack Price Juvenile on Nov. 11.

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. had even more reason to be upset over the way the In Reality unfolded. His horse, Villainage, was eliminated from contention when he lunged, stumbled, and nearly unseated jockey Abel Castellano Jr. as he left the starting gate. Villainage picked himself up and fought his way back to contention after six furlongs but had little left once entering the stretch and finished sixth, beaten 22 lengths.

"It was nobody's fault, but it's particularly tough to take when you know you've got your horse 110 percent for an important race like the In Reality and something like that happens right out of the gate," said Plesa.

Luck ran better in other races

Fortunately for Plesa and DiMauro, the day was not a total loss, since both had considerable success earlier on the Festival of the Sun program. Plesa won the $400,000 My Dear Girl Stakes with odds-on favorite Adhrhythm and the $100,000 Criterium with Yesbyjimminy. DiMauro sent out Darluna to an 18 1/2-length win in the $100,000 Shocker T. Handicap.

Yesbyjimminy has now won four of his five starts, with his only defeat coming in the Foolish Pleasure, where he finished a tiring third.

"I don't think it was the distance that beat him in the Foolish Pleasure," said Plesa. "He had trained too well to run like that. I think he was compromised more by the virus that affected several horses in my barn that weekend, including B. B. Best."

Yesbyjimminy is expected to make his next start against Straight Faced in the Jack Price Juvenile.

DiMauro remained in awe of Darluna's sensational performance in the Shocker T., in which she earned a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure.

"She was given an easy lead and I think she responded to that, but to be honest, I don't know where that kind of race came from," said DiMauro. "For her to dominate like that was shocking."

Darluna had entered the Shocker T. off an eighth-place finish in the Grade 3 Turfway Park Breeders' Cup Handicap three weeks earlier. DiMauro said he will keep Darluna home and point her toward the $200,000 Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap here Nov. 11.

Last weekend was certainly one of mixed emotions for DiMauro, whose brother-in-law Ron Worswick died Friday. Worswick, whose son Doug is a former trainer, campaigned stakes winners Lucky Lavender Gal and Bluffs Dividend on the local circuit with trainer Bill White.

* Pomeroy worked four furlongs from the gate in 47.80 seconds here Tuesday as he continues to train toward the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Trainer Marty Wolfson said he will work Pomeroy a strong six furlongs about six days before the Sprint and ship him to Kentucky along with his second Breeders' Cup starter Miesque's Approval, on Wednesday, Nov. 1.