12/18/2006 12:00AM

Fawkes likes what he's seeing in Take D' Tour


MIAMI, Fla. - After a steady diet of Grade 1 competition in New York earlier this season, Take D' Tour got some much-appreciated class relief when she returned home to win the Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap on Nov. 11. Her trainer, David Fawkes, is hoping the Grade 1-winning mare will end her extremely successful campaign on a similar note when she starts as the heavy favorite once again a week from Saturday in the $100,000 Stage Door Betty Handicap.

Take D' Tour showed that she has lost none of her sharpness despite a fairly rigorous campaign, loping through an easy five-furlong workout in 1:00.90 seconds here on Monday morning.

"I thought she looked good this morning, and she's right on schedule for the Stage Door Betty," Fawkes said, while Take D' Tour finished cooling out back at the barn.

Take D' Tour rose to national prominence this summer when she posted back-to-back 5 1/2-length victories in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps and Grade 2 Shuvee handicaps at Belmont Park. She also finished second in the Grade 1 Ruffian on Sept.o10.

Fawkes brought Take D' Tour, a 5-year-old daughter of Tour d'Or, back to her south Florida base following her sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Beldame. And while she laid over her competition in the Heubeck, there were still questions to be answered about whether she could win around two turns or without the early lead. She passed those tests with flying colors after rallying from off the pace to an easy 3 3/4-length victory under jockey Eibar Coa.

"Eibar didn't get into a fight with her last time, and she rated really kind, and I loved to see that," said Fawkes. "She's matured so much since she's returned from New York. I still believe she needs to be forwardly placed in her races, but it's obvious now she doesn't have to be on the lead."

Fawkes says he hopes to use the Stage Door Betty as a stepping-stone to the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Santa Anita on Jan. 27.

Fawkes was also delighted over the accomplishment of his former assistant and exercise rider Pollianna Oliveira, who won the first race of her riding career at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday.

"She worked as my assistant last winter at Tampa, then returned with us to gallop and help out around the barn until leaving for Tampa to finally begin her riding career last month," said Fawkes. "And I couldn't have been prouder when I heard she won her first race."

Straight Faced gets back to work

Take D' Tour wasn't the only big name on Monday's tab at Calder. Several minutes earlier, Straight Faced, among the premier 2-year-olds on the grounds, breezed a half-mile in 47.46 seconds under exercise rider Curt Muth. It was his first work since being scratched from the Jack Price Juvenile on Nov. 11 because of a recurring foot problem.

"He missed about 10 days of training, but everything seems to be fine now," said trainer Steve DiMauro.

"I don't really judge a work by the time," said DiMauro. "I go by the way they do it, and it seemed to me like he went off easy and finished well. I didn't want him to loaf down the lane, so I told the rider to make sure and pick it up a little near the end, and he responded well."

Straight Faced won his first four starts, including the opening two legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes, before suffering his only defeat in the In Reality, his two-turn debut. He finished a tiring fourth after an early speed duel.

"His feet are always going to be a concern, but at the moment he's doing well, and hopefully he'll continue this way," said DiMauro. "Right now the plan is to run him in the Spectacular Bid at Gulfstream on the 7th and then point for the Sunshine Millions race later next month."

Another $25K goes to Miami Project

Robyn Cleary, who was paralyzed in a training accident at Calder in 1996, continued her tireless efforts to raise money for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis when she was on hand here Saturday along with Marc Buoniconti to accept a check for $25,000 from Calder for the fund.

Buoniconti, paralyzed in a 1985 college football game, is the prominent public figure in fundraising for the Miami Project.

Cleary's efforts have raised more $788,000 for the Miami Project, with $275,000 of that total having been donated by Calder.

"I never dreamed when I first started out I'd be able to raise that much money, but the people who have been sponsoring me have been unbelievably generous," said Cleary.