06/19/2010 11:00PM

Straight Story shoots for U.N. spot


OCEANPORT, N.J. - A first-level turf allowance on Sunday at Monmouth Park could be the springboard to launch Straight Story into the United Nations Stakes on July 3.

Not many older horses can make the leap from an entry-level race to a Grade 1, $750,000 stakes.

If anyone appears capable of handling the transition, it's Straight Story.

The 4-year-old trained by Alan Goldberg has already earned $412,390. That bankroll gives him a dominant class edge on eight rivals going 1 1/8 miles in the $80,000 race.

He has run twice this year, both times at Belmont Park against New York-breds. After missing by a head in his season debut, Straight Story came back to win a second-level allowance by a commanding 8 1/2 lengths as the favorite at 15 cents on the dollar.

The price doesn't figure to be much higher on Sunday.

He appears to have come back stronger this year, posting 102 and 97 Beyer Speed Figures that no rival in this race can touch.

"He seems pretty good," Goldberg said. "He certainly looks better, but it might have been the competition."

A string of heartbreaking losses last year kept Straight Story eligible for this race. His three wins have come in New York-bred races, which are excluded from allowance consideration in the Monmouth condition book. While he has yet to win against open company, it wasn't from lack of effort.

He dropped three head-bobs in graded stakes last year: the Jamaica, the Colonial Turf Cup and the Virginia Derby.

"I figured he's eligible for this race and maybe he'll get lucky and win it," Goldberg said. "Then we'll see if we can win the UN."

Sweet Ducky set for race debut

The time has come for Sweet Ducky to get quacking after burning up the morning work tab at Monmouth.

He debuts Sunday from the rail in a $75,000 maiden special weight for 2-year-olds. Sweet Ducky is part of a George and Lori Hall-owned entry along with Nacho Saint. Trainer Kelly Breen said Friday morning that the plan is to run Sweet Ducky with Nacho Saint standing by as a backup insurance policy. Garrett Gomez was named on both horses.

A $135,000 purchase at Keeneland last September, Sweet Ducky turned in bullet workouts in his last three breezes. His final drill last Monday was a sensational three furlongs in 33.80.

"He has talent," Breen said. "He's very deceptive in what he does and how he goes."

While the workouts are eye-catching, so is his name.

The Halls let their kids participate in the sales bidding and naming of the horses. George Jr. was in charge of this colt and came up with Sweet Ducky for one of his first-grade classmates.

"He was a school friend who at the time was his arch-nemesis," Breen said. "So as a tease, he called him Sweet Ducky."

And the name was passed on to a son of Pulpit.

When Sweet Ducky arrived at the Palm Meadows training center over the winter, it was apparent that the colt had talent.

Breen sent an e-mail to the Halls advising it was not too late for a name change.

"I suggested we name another horse Sweet Ducky and get this horse a real dominant male name," Breen said. "But little George said it's going to be Sweet Ducky."

A name that does not fit his personality.

"You go to his stall and he hollers at everyone," Breen said. "He lets everyone know that he's here. He's very boisterous in his stall, boisterous on the track."

State backup plan in place

The New Jersey Racing Commission took action Friday to insure racing continues, even if state government shuts down on July 1 at the expiration of the current budget.

A similar shutdown in 2006 cost Monmouth two cards over the Independence Day weekend.

Legislation passed following that shutdown allows a seven-day extension for racing, providing all existing rules and regulations are followed and enforced by qualified stewards and veterinarians hired by the racetracks.

The issue could also be resolved by an executive order from Gov. Chris Christie declaring racing commission staff "essential personnel" during a government shutdown.

"My understanding is that he is supportive of that action," Lennon Register, senior vice president racing for Monmouth and the Meadowlands, told the commissioners.