06/24/2005 12:00AM

Straight Line likely for Ohio Derby

Four-Footed Fotos
Straight Line has made only one start beyond a mile in his career.

CHICAGO - Straight Line is making a beeline back into graded stakes competition and appears to be headed to Thistledown for the Grade 2 Ohio Derby on July 2.

Straight Line's connections have been wavering between the Ohio Derby and the Iowa Derby, which is run a day earlier at Prairie Meadows, but trainer Brian Williamson said Friday that Straight Line was more likely to go in the Ohio Derby, a $350,000 race that is worth $100,000 more than the Iowa Derby.

"Right now I'd say we're 80-20 to go to the Ohio Derby," Williamson said. "It doesn't look like a whole bunch of tough ones, nothing that's going to scare us off."

Besides offering less money, the Iowa Derby is run under lights, and "you never know how they're going to react to night racing," Williamson said.

Regardless of where Straight Line ends up, Williamson said he just hopes Straight Line gets there without losing his mind. Last summer, when he was sent by van to Ellis Park for the Ellis Park Juvenile, Straight Line shipped poorly and turned in a non-effort on race day, finishing eighth. Williamson said he feels Straight Line will do better this time, but still plans to send him to Ohio as early as Tuesday, in case Straight Line acts up again on his van ride.

"Now, he's been on the van a lot more," said Williamson. "He went down to Florida, from Florida to Kentucky, from Kentucky to here. He's got a lot of van miles on him now."

Straight Line's winter campaign was a wash, and he was eased in his lone start at the Gulfstream meet, coming out of the race with a serious hock infection. But in his comeback here June 4, Straight Line looked much like the horse who had won the Grade 3 Iroquois last fall, beating older horses by four lengths in a third-level allowance race while finishing a mile in 1:34.60.

The question now is whether Straight Line can duplicate that form in a two-turn race. He lost his only route start at 2, finishing fourth in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.

"He's a little older now, and it seems like he'll keep going," said Williamson. "He knows what's going on now."

What went wrong for 'Smoke'?

Smoke Smoke Smoke is among the fastest 3-year-old sprinters in the Midwest, if not the country, though one wouldn't have known it in the $36,000 St. Paul Stakes on May 28 at Canterbury Park. Favored at odds of 1-10, Smoke Smoke Smoke finished second in the race, beaten almost four lengths in a three-horse field.

The surprising loss prompted a mock battle between Hugh Robertson and his son, Mac. Mac is basically Smoke Smoke Smoke's trainer, but the colt ran for Hugh Robertson in a pair of striking wins earlier this season in Chicago.

"I'm blaming it on Mac, and Mac's blaming it on me," said Robertson.

Robertson attributed the St. Paul loss to Smoke Smoke Smoke running back on short rest after a fast race at Arlington and encountering an unusually slow pace at Canterbury.

Whatever the case, Smoke Smoke Smoke is back at Arlington and is likely to start next either in the Alysheba Breeders' Cup on July 2 at Lone Star or in an overnight sprint stakes on turf at Churchill Downs, Robertson said.

Whimsy points to Iowa Oaks

Whimsy, who took her first loss here May 14 in an overnight handicap, is scheduled to start next in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks on July 1 at Prairie Meadows. Whimsy quickly bounced back from her Arlington loss with a 4 1/4-length victory in the $50,000 Panther Stakes on June 10 at Prairie Meadows.

"She really moved up first time at two turns," trainer Mike Stidham said.