11/06/2007 1:00AM

Cat Hop vs. Rivanna River in a battle of co-workers

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - Tensions may be running hot at a certain New York City speed-figure shop Thursday. Both Len Friedman and Jake Hadaad of Len Ragozin's The Sheets operation have horses entered in the featured seventh race at Hawthorne, a second-level allowance for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Pure coincidence, assured Friedman, a minority partner in Rivanna River, whose rival Cat Hop is owned by Hadaad.

"I didn't choose the race," Friedman said Tuesday, adding that he believed intra-office pugilism could be avoided. "Both trainers just had it picked out as the right spot."

In terms of Beyer Speed Figures, it's Cat Hop that looks superior between The Sheets-related horses. While Cat Hop has Beyers in the high 70s from her peak performances earlier this year, Rivanna River hit a 77 just once, on Woodbine Polytrack way back in October 2006.

Rivanna River, based in Kentucky with Niall O'Callaghan, never has tried turf, and might like it, but Cat Hop actually won over the Hawthorne grass this past spring. She has been clicking off quick-looking dirt works at Hawthorne for the Mike Stidham barn every six, seven, or eight days since late September, and could be set for a solid performance in her first race since late June.

The horse Cat Hop may have to beat, however, has no Sheets influence at all. That would be Melissa's Dream, who was stuck in her first-allowance condition for eight starts, spanning more than a year, before finally breaking through here Oct. 7. Melissa's Dream won that nine-furlong race by more than three lengths, and was flattered when second-place Penelope Wonders came right back to win.

Melissa's Dream, trained by Chris Block, seems like a better horse with a target to follow, and should have one in Mary Cat, an habitual turf front-runner who comes off a seven-furlong race at Kentucky Downs. Bold Angel, another filly from the Stidham barn, also has some measure of early pace, and could be sharp early while making her first start since Aug. 6.

Should weather force a move to dirt - and it wouldn't take much this time of year - the race's complexion completely changes. Thrown heavily into the main-track mix is Editor's Ransom, who has won 3 of her last 4 starts, and captured an entry-level allowance race here Oct. 21 by more than five lengths. Editor's Ransom showed nothing in her lone turf start, but seems to handle everything else, with two wins on fast dirt, another in the mud, and two more on synthetic surfaces.