11/18/2006 12:00AM

Cruz not alone at the top


MIAMI - Saturday's third race may have been a perfect indication of what to expect from the jockeys' race between now and the end of the Tropical at Calder meeting on Jan. 2.

Leading riders Jermaine Bridgmohan and Manoel Cruz hooked up aboard Go Native and 4-5 favorite Valentine Verse from the half-mile pole to the wire in the mile turf race for 2-year-old fillies, with neither giving a quarter until Bridgmohan and Go Native edged to a narrow victory in the closing yards.

The win was the second of three in a row on the card for the young apprentice, who surged to the lead in the battle for the riding title, which figures to go right down to closing day. Cruz had led for most of the first 24 days of the session until Bridgmohan drew even on Friday.

Bridgmohan, who is planning to move his tack to Aqueduct following the conclusion of the Tropical meet, rides in nine of the 10 races on Monday's program. Bridgmohan and Cruz will meet six times on the card, including in the featured sixth race, a third-level allowance dash for older fillies and mares to be decided at five furlongs on the turf.

Bridgmohan has the assignment in the headliner on Mia Mia for trainer Marty Wolfson. A 4-year-old daughter of Distinct Reality, Mia Mia was a multiple stakes winner on dirt in her native Uruguay before coming to this country earlier in the year. She has made just one start in the U.S., showing speed to the stretch before tiring badly while making her turf debut in the 7 1/2-furlong Capital Request Stakes on Oct. 1.

Cruz will team up with trainer Bill Mott when he rides Saoirse Cat, who returns to allowance company for the first time since winning a second-level allowance race over the Delaware Park turf course on June 17. Saoirse Cat has not started since finishing a disappointing sixth as the favorite in P.G. Johnson Stakes at the Meadowlands five weeks ago.

The red-hot Read the Label and Bereba are among several other key contenders in Monday's main event. The two steadily improving 3-year-old fillies enter the race having won their entry- and second-level allowance conditions in similar five-furlong turf sprints.

Read the Label, a daughter of Successful Appeal trained by Bill White, has been slightly more impressive, winning her last two starts by an average margin of nearly three lengths while earning a career-best 89 Beyer Speed Figure in her most recent appearance.

Bereba has been harder-pressed to get through the same conditions, notching a half-length decision over Legendary Journey for her most recent triumph, on Nov. 11, a performance for which she earned an 88 Beyer.

Silversider is a two-time stakes winner. A 3-year-old daughter of Wekiva Springs, she turns back to a sprint off a steady diet of longer races that includes a second-place finish in the Judy's Red Shoes going 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 23 and a fourth-place finish in the rich Calder Oaks here last month.

* Calder will present a 10-race program on Thanksgiving Day. Post time for the holiday card will be 11 a.m. Post time will revert to the usual 12:25 p.m. on Friday for a 12-race program.