08/30/2006 11:00PM

Several hurdles for favorite


MIAMI - Trainer Steve DiMauro is on a roll, having won a pair of overnight stakes with older horses Darluna and Eternal Look at Calder last weekend. DiMauro is hoping the hot streak continues at Calder Saturday, when he sends out his undefeated and untested 2-year-old Straight Faced as the solid favorite in the $150,000 Affirmed Stakes, the middle leg of the open division of the Florida Stallion Stakes.

The seven-furlong Affirmed and its filly counterpart, the $150,000 Susan's Girl, are two of six stakes on Saturday's 13-race Juvenile Showcase card, which consists entirely of 2-year-old races. The program offers all-stakes pick six, pick five, and pick four wagers.

Straight Faced, a son of Straight Man owned by Walter Donnelly, has won his first three starts by a combined margin of 15 lengths, including the Dr. Fager division of the Stallion Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths on Aug. 5. But despite Straight Faced's success, DiMauro said he has some concern over Saturday's assignment.

"I've lost a little training time with him since his last start because of a foot problem, and he'll be running in an aluminum pad for the first time in the Affirmed," said DiMauro. "We've had similar problems in the past and he's battled through them, so I'm hopeful he'll be able to do it again. He's facing a lot of the horses he's already beaten easily, and the way he's been doing things, the extra distance shouldn't be a problem. Last weekend was excellent, and I just hope I can keep it going on Saturday."

Straight Faced will break from post 2 in a field of eight under regular rider Manoel Cruz.

Bettors looking to beat the favorite have many alternatives.

Villainage finished best of all to be second in the Dr. Fager while racing in blinkers and on Lasix for the first time, and he should relish the extra furlong.

El Bandido Rojo set the pace from a deep rail and held on well behind Straight Faced despite failing to change leads through the stretch of the Dr. Fager.

Wonderous Glory was fourth in the Dr. Fager after being bumped at the break and dropping well back in the pack. He figures to race closer to the lead with blinkers added for the Affirmed.

Green Vegas has failed to duplicate his sensational career debut in two subsequent starts, although he lost all chance in the Dr. Fager after striking the inner rail entering the far turn.

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. has a good chance to win the Affirmed with Villainage and an even better chance to take the Susan's Girl, in which he has a trio of top contenders, including Snow Lady, who defeated Silkily by a neck to capture the six-furlong Desert Vixen division here last month. Snow Lady earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 61 for the win. Plesa also sends out recent maiden winners Adrhythm and Synergy. All three stablemates will race uncoupled in the wagering.

"I think all three of my horses have excellent chances, and in all honesty I couldn't tell you which one was best," said Plesa, who entered 10 horses for Saturday's card. "Snow Lady might have made a little premature run in the Desert Vixen, and I think she's better than the Beyer figure she received might indicate. Synergy ran a big race overcoming trouble in her only start, and we've been pointing her for this one all along. Adrhythm's last race was excellent."

The Susan's Girl also lured a couple of undefeated shippers: Graeme Central, who comes down from New York for trainer Rick Violette, and Unbridled Ambiance, who ships in from Kentucky for Scott Blasi.

Graeme Central is a bit of a rarity: a New York-bred eligible for the Florida Stallion Stakes. She won her debut at Saratoga against statebreds, earning a 72 Beyer Speed Figure.

Unbridled Ambiance won her maiden under a $17,500 claiming tag at Churchill Downs and returned to capture the Canterbury Lassie Stakes in her only other start.