01/06/2007 1:00AM

Straight Faced comes off three-month break


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Three-year-old racing is traditionally the cornerstone of the Gulfstream Park winter meet and this season will be no exception, with the action kicking off Sunday with the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes. The six-furlong Spectacular Bid is the first in a series of 3-year-old stakes that culminates with the $1 million Florida Derby on March 31.

Multiple stakes winner Straight Faced, who opened his career with four consecutive victories, including the opening two legs of Calder's Florida Stallion Stakes, will be among the favorites in the 26th renewal of the Spectacular Bid.

Straight Faced overcame a nagging foot problem to win the seven-furlong Affirmed by a half-length in September while equipped with an aluminum pad to protect his tender foot. He finished fourth in the 1 1/16-mile In Reality Oct. 14, the only loss of his career, and an abscess in the same left front foot forced him to be scratched from the Jack Price Juvenile on Nov. 11. As a result, he enters the Spectacular Bid off a layoff of nearly three months.

"He's training well," said Steve DiMauro, who trains Straight Faced for owner Walter Donnelly. "Right now his foot is fine, and going six furlongs I don't think the layoff will bother him much. I'm more concerned about the quality of the competition. We're at Gulfstream now, and Gulfstream tends to bring out the best 3-year-olds around."

Straight Faced, who drew the rail, is one of four Calder-based 3-year-olds among the seven horses entered for the Spectacular Bid.

Green Vegas, who avenged three earlier setbacks at the hands of Straight Faced when he rallied to a half-length victory in the In Reality Stakes, tops the group, which also includes James Wilfred and Pop Goes the Tiger.

Green Vegas, a versatile son of Trippi, closed out his 2-year-old campaign in top form, winning the In Reality and Foolish Pleasure stakes and finishing second in the Jack Price Juvenile and What a Pleasure.

The undefeated Out of Gwedda may be favored despite being idle since winning Belmont's Tremont Stakes on July 4. He has trained steadily at Palm Meadows and Palm Beach Downs since late November.