01/31/2008 12:00AM

Kiss the Kid's dirt abilities will get tested in Donn


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Wood Be Willing and Kiss the Kid figure to be the two outsiders in the wagering in Saturday's Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Wood Be Willing is trained by Hall of Famer and racing legend Allen Jerkens. Kiss the Kid will be saddled by Amy Tarrant, who six years ago decided to train her own horses after completing the even more arduous task of raising her five children.

Tarrant, 64, calls Kiss the Kid's appearance in the $500,000 Donn her "daring adventure" and is realistic enough to know exactly what she's facing on Saturday. But her horse is a stakes winner, has eclipsed the 100 mark on the Beyer scale a handful of times, and will move up appreciably if it should rain and the track comes up less than fast.

"He's had some nice races on dirt and I don't think he'll disgrace himself out there," said Tarrant. "What I really want to find out is if he belongs at the upper level on dirt, and this should tell me what I need to know. If not, I'll just switch him back to the turf and point for something like the Mac Diarmida later in the meet."

The Donn will mark Kiss the Kid's third try against Grade 1 competition but his first on dirt. Kiss the Kid finished seventh in the Manhattan and fourth behind Eclipse Award winner English Channel in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational last year.

"He's feeling the best he's ever felt and tries hard every time," said Tarrant, who has a dozen horses in training at Palm Meadows. "There's a lot of money involved in this race and if he can even finish third and get Grade 1 placing it would mean a lot to us."

Straight Faced returns in Ocala

As a 2-year-old, Straight Faced was the scourge of south Florida. Trainer Steve DiMauro is hoping to get his injury-plagued multiple stakes winner back on track when Straight Faced opens his 4-year-old campaign on Feb. 11 in the $50,000 Florida Thoroughbred Charities Stakes in Ocala. The five-furlong sprint is restricted to horses purchased out of the Ocala Breeders' Sales.

Straight Faced, a son of Straight Man, won his first four starts, including the opening two legs of the Florida Stallion Series in 2006, despite battling tender feet that forced him to the sidelines following a fifth-place finish here last winter in the Spectacular Bid Stakes.

Straight Faced spent most of the past year on the farm but has been working steadily at Gulfstream for more than a month. He indicated his readiness for his return by working five furlongs from the gate in 59.56 seconds here Thursday.

"I've been babying him up to this point, but he's ready to run so I wanted to set him down and give him a good, hard work this morning," said DiMauro, who trains Straight Faced for owner Walter Donnelly.

DiMauro said he still holds his breath every time Straight Faced works but remains hopeful the colt's foot problems are a thing of the past.

"We pushed him hard as a 2-year-old for the stallion stakes series and it finally took its toll because we were constantly battling his feet issues," DiMauro explained. "Right now I'm cautiously optimistic, but he's doing very well and I'm hopeful he'll be able to come back this year to where he was at 2."

Kentucky Bear's next start uncertain

Trainer Reade Baker is searching for a spot to bring back his promising 3-year-old Kentucky Bear, who earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure after rallying to a 6 1/2-length maiden special weight victory in his career debut going a mile Jan. 21.

"He turned in a couple of brilliant works after we got to Palm Meadows but in between he also had a terrible one," Baker said. "He flattened out and finished his final quarter in about 27. I wasn't sure which horse I was going to get when he ran. Fortunately, I got the one who had been so brilliant."

Baker would like to bring Kentucky Bear back in a first-level allowance race in about three weeks, but he's afraid it might not fill because that would be the same week as the Fountain of Youth. Baker said another option could be to run in the Fountain of Youth.

* Commentator worked a half-mile in 49.40 at Palm Meadows on Thursday. It was his first drill since setting a one-mile course record winning his 2008 debut here on Jan. 17. Trainer Nick Zito has not mapped out any definite plans for Commentator's next start.