09/01/2006 11:00PM

Straight Faced nips Villainage in Affirmed

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MIAMI - Trainers running 2-5 shots in $150,000 stakes rarely have as many worries coming up to the race as Steve DiMauro did before Saturday's at Calder. Fortunately for him, those concerns proved for naught, as Straight Faced remained undefeated with a game half-length victory over the late-running Villainage in the Affirmed, the middle leg of the open division of the Florida Stallion Stakes.

Nagging foot problems forced Straight Faced to miss valuable training time since his easy victory four weeks earlier in the Dr. Fager Stakes. DiMauro also had to resort to putting a bar shoe on Straight Faced to protect the tender frog on Straight Faced's front left foot. DiMauro said he even considered scratching Straight Faced from the Affirmed on several occasions this week.

But Straight Faced proved talented enough to overcome all the problems. Under another perfectly judged ride by red-hot jockey Manoel Cruz, Straight Faced stalked the early pace of El Bandido Rojo, wore that rival down while carried wide through midstretch, then withstood a final surge from Villainage. Villainage, who also finished second behind Straight Faced in the Dr. Fager, had to steady briefly from tight quarters along the rail leaving the backstretch, continued to save ground into the stretch, and finished best of all.

Straight Faced, a son of Straight Man owned by Walter Donnelly, covered seven furlongs over a sloppy track in 1:26.03 and paid $2.80.

"There were many times this week I was wondering if it would be best just not to run him and press on for the next one," DiMauro said, referring to the $400,000 In Reality Stakes on Oct. 14. "But my blacksmith assured me he would be able to run through his problems. We'll back off on him now, with the main objective to get him over this problem, although we can't take too much time off, because the next one is a mile and one-sixteenth."

Straight Faced gave Cruz a sweep of the two main events on Saturday's 14-race Juvenile Showcase card. The meet's leading rider, Cruz also won the $150,000 Susan's Girl Stakes with Adhrhythm for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.

Adhrhythm, a daughter of Relic Rhythm, raced well placed behind the early leaders, circled four wide to easily assume control into the stretch, then drew off to register an 8 1/2-length decision over Silkily. Graeme Central, the 9-5 favorite, finished sixth after contesting the pace to the stretch.

Adhrhythm was one of three fillies Plesa sent out in the Susan's Girl. He also sent out Snow Lady, who finished third, and Synergy, who finished fourth.

"Going into the race, I didn't know which of the three was best," said Plesa. "I don't know if it was the track, but for today I guess Adhrhythm was much the best. Fortunately, I have the kind of owners who all root for each other. This filly really impressed me, and it looks like she wants to go further, which is what I wanted to see."

Plesa said he will point Adhrhythm for the $400,000 My Dear Girl Stakes on Oct. 14.

* Earlier in the day, Plesa also sent out Yesbyjimminy ($3.40) to register a half-length decision over Five Towns in the $50,000 Fasig Tipton Turf Dash, a race moved from the grass to the sloppy main track because of rain.

* Jockey Elvis Trujillo won two of the four stakes on the Juvenile Showcase undercard, registering easy victories with Cat Tour ($13.40) in the $50,000 Seacliff Stakes and Yesshecandance ($6.60) in the Catcharisingstar.

* Naseem ($29), making her career debut, rallied from last to score a three-quarter-length win over Lucky Too in the $50,000 Lindsay Frolic Stakes.