10/12/2006 12:00AM

Straight Faced has sweep in his sights


MIAMI - Six weeks ago, Straight Faced overcame a bruised foot to register a hard-fought victory in the Affirmed division of the Florida Stallion Stakes. On Saturday the undefeated 2-year-old will face perhaps a more imposing obstacle, an additional 1 1/2 furlongs, when he seeks to become the sixth horse to sweep the open division of the 25-year-old Stallion Stakes series with a victory in the $400,000 In Reality Stakes.

The 1 1/16-mile In Reality and its filly counterpart, the $400,000 My Dear Girl Stakes, highlight Saturday's 13-race, $1.6 million Festival of the Sun program, which includes six other stakes.

Straight Faced had cruised to easy victories in each of his first three starts, including the six-furlong Dr. Fager division of the Stallion Stakes. But equipped with an aluminum pad to protect his tender foot, Straight Faced was all out over a sloppy track to turn back Villainage to register a half-length decision in the seven-furlong Affirmed.

Trainer Steve DiMauro said Straight Faced has recuperated nicely from his injured foot in the six weeks since the Affirmed. But DiMauro has some concern about stretching out Straight Faced, a son of Straight Man, around two turns for the first time on Saturday.

"It's a concern because it's something he hasn't done before," said DiMauro. "But I think he'll handle the extra distance, especially over this track, which seems to carry speed a little further and may make it easier for him to go two turns the first time."

Straight Faced figures to be on or near the pace, breaking from post 1 under regular rider Manoel Cruz.

Both Villainage and Green Vegas will take another shot at Straight Faced after chasing him home in the Dr. Fager and Affirmed.

"I'm hoping the extra distance will make the difference," said Eddie Plesa Jr., who trains Villainage. "I think my horse was a little intimidated finishing on the rail in the Affirmed, and I've made a little adjustment with his blinkers, opening them up a little more for this race. There are two horses to beat in the In Reality, Straight Faced and Green Vegas, and I wouldn't trade places with either of them."

Green Vegas finished third, a half-length behind Villainage, in the Affirmed and has since come back to register a two-length victory over Imawildandcrazyguy in the mile and 70-yard Foolish Pleasure. Imawildandcrazyguy is also among the eight starters in the In Reality along with Hold'em or Fold'em, Wonderous Glory, Soldier's Dancer, and Captain Cameron.