11/22/2002 1:00AM

High Ideal cashes in on turf-to-dirt switch


MIAMI - Friday's first and richest race, a $30,000 allowance scheduled at a mile on the turf, was supposed to have served as a prep for the $100,000, Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap here on Dec. 7. But after being switched to the main track because of the soft condition of the grass course, the race turned into a possible prep for, of all things, the Great State Classic at Sam Houston Park.

The change resulted in 10 of the 16 being entrants for Friday's first race to be scratched, allowing High Ideal to get in from off the also-eligible list. High Ideal took full advantage of the situation, scoring a 5 1/2-length victory under jockey M.R. Cruz.

The victory was the second in the last three starts for the 4-year-old High Ideal, a New Jersey-bred, who is trained by Marty Wolfson for owner Judith Brodkin. His one loss during that span came in the Spend a Buck Handicap on Oct. 12, when he finished a non-threatening sixth after trying to savage one rival entering the clubhouse turn.

"I don't know what happened in the Spend a Buck, but once he tried to take a bite out of the other horse he fell too far off the pace to run his race," said Wolfson. "He likes to be right with the pace just like he was today."

Even though High Ideal has been racing regularly in south Florida, Wolfson said High Ideal was the one New Jersey-bred invited to the Great State Classic. The Classic is the main event on the inaugural Great State Challenge program at Sam Houston on Dec. 7.

"I have to let them know today whether we're coming or not," said Wolfson on Friday. "The alternative would be the seven-furlong Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap here the same day. I have no problem turning him back in distance since the only time he ran seven furlongs he won by nine lengths."

Two other Calder regulars, the Wolfson-trained Coolbythepool and Band Is Passing, also were invited to the Great State Challenge, but neither will make the trip.

Owner-trainer Stanley Ersoff said Band Is Passing will likely make his next start in defense of his title in the Tropical Turf Handicap.

Cruz Brazil-bound during suspension

Cruz's victory aboard High Ideal came on the heels of a four-win day the previous afternoon and kept him in contention for the Tropical at Calder jockey title along with Cornelio Velasquez and Eibar Coa. Unfortunately for Cruz, he will begin serving a seven-day suspension this weekend.

"I'm going home to see my family in Brazil during the suspension," he said. "When I return I plan to ride out the end of this meet and then try my luck and see what happens when Gulfstream opens."

Cruz came to Calder a relative unknown after dominating the standings at Tampa Bay Downs last winter. He wasted little time catching on with local horsemen after winning with three of his first five mounts here, and he finished second behind Velasquez during the Calder summer meet.

"I was very confident that I would do well here," said Cruz. "I worked hard, got off to a fast start, and had a lot of good luck, which a rider always needs to succeed. All I ask is that the New York trainers [who race at Gulfstream] give me the same chance this winter as the Calder trainers have given me. If I can do well at Gulfstream, I'll stay. If not, I'll go back to Tampa because my main objective has always been to win races."