05/15/2005 11:00PM

Straight Line getting sharper

Four-Footed Fotos
Smoke Smoke Smoke may take a shot at major stakes competition.

CHICAGO - Straight Line, whose lone start this year as a 3-year-old was a disaster, has resumed a regular workout schedule and should make a return to the races in the coming weeks.

Straight Line's latest breeze came Monday at Arlington, when he worked five furlongs under jockey Chris Emigh in the company of stablemate Treat Me Neat.

"They finished together, but the rider on Straight Line, he was just sitting on the horse," said Brian Williamson. Williamson serves as the trainer of record for many of the horses in the barn of Harvey Vanier. Straight Line, who wintered with Vanier in Florida and Kentucky, still runs under Vanier's name.

Arlington clockers timed Straight Line's five-furlong workout in a swift 1:00.40. Better still, Williamson caught the horse galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.40.

Straight Line still bears the physical mark of the reason for his poor showing in his lone 2005 start, a last-place finish in the Swale Stakes on March 5 at Gulfstream. Winner of the Grade 3 Iroquois at 2 and second here late last summer in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, Straight Line came out of the Swale with a serious infection in his hock, the protruding major joint on a horse's hind leg.

"He was in the clinic for a while," said Williamson. "It was pretty bad. It still doesn't look completely normal, but that's just the way it's going to be for a little while."

Williamson said Straight Line isn't quite prepared for a comeback race.

"I don't know where he's going to run," he said. "He's going to need a few more works yet."

Lord of the Game likely for Hanshin

Lord of the Game's riches-to-rags-to-riches story still has its narrative momentum. Three weeks after finishing third in the Grade 3 National Jockey Club Handicap - his first loss in six career starts - Lord of the Game returned to the work tab Sunday morning at Arlington, breezing a solid five furlongs in 1:01.20. His trainer, Tom Tomillo, said Lord of the Game has been nominated to the May 28 Hanshin Handicap at Arlington, and is likely to start in the race.

"He's nominated, and we will see who's going to come in," said Tomillo, "but he's probably going to run. If I can run him in there, then he can go on to the Claiming Crown."

The July 16 Claiming Crown Jewel, worth $150,000, tops Tomillo's summer plans for Lord of the Game, who was claimed last December out of his career debut in a $10,000 maiden-claiming race. Maidens running for a $10,000 tag are among the lowest-class horses in Chicago, but Lord of the Game has a big-time pedigree - by Saint Ballado and out of a mare by A.P. Indy - and was bred and initially owned by the prominent WinStar Farm. Lord of the Game won his first start by almost 23 lengths, and won his first five races by an average of about eight lengths, but after breaking poorly at the start of the NJC Handicap and dueling for the lead with the Grade 1-class Badge of Silver, Lord of the Game tired to finish third.

The race was a taxing one, especially for a horse making his third start in three weeks, and Tomillo subsequently gave Lord of the Game a break.

In the meantime, Lord of the Game's novice owner, Bill Slevin - who races as Two Blondes Inc. - has reinvested. Late in the Hawthorne meet, he claimed the mare Pass the Pepper for $50,000, and Tomillo said she may start in an upcoming overnight stakes race here.

'Smoke' to hit the road

Smoke Smoke Smoke has gotten too good for the locals. After another brilliant sprint victory, this one last Friday at Arlington in a $40,000 overnight handicap, Smoke Smoke Smoke almost certainly will need to hit the road for his next start. When and where that race comes remains uncertain, but even the conservative, level-headed trainer Hugh Robertson has entertained the idea that Smoke Smoke Smoke might be good enough for major stakes competition.

"He just might be," Robertson said shortly after Smoke Smoke Smoke's comfortable two-length victory.

In his previous start, Smoke Smoke Smoke had won the $143,000 Lost Code at Hawthorne; this time, he ran six furlongs in 1:08.80. Raving Rocket, who set a fast pace, ran well to hold second, while Robertson took third with the improving Three Hour Nap.

Saturday's overnight stakes winner, the 3-year-old filly Miss Matched, will make her next start in a stakes race somewhere in the Midwest, said her trainer, John Ward.

Fast start for Bridgmohan

Many predicted that in his first season at Arlington jockey Shaun Bridgmohan would be the leading rider. And after a three-day opening week, he is.

Bridgmohan rode 11 horses last week and won with six of them, and his agent, Dennis Cooper, appears to have lined up plenty of live mounts on Wednesday's nine-race card. Among them is Touch of Victory, who has an excellent chance to win the featured eighth, a third-level allowance with a $50,000 claiming option.

Trained by Steve Hobby, Touch of Victory has scored 2 of her 3 career wins over the Arlington track, and her best distance is the nine furlongs she gets in Wednesday's race. Touch of Victory lacks speed and needs a legitimate pace, and with several speed horses in the feature, she should get one.