11/21/2007 12:00AM

Longer the better for Strait of Mewsina

EmailThe crack turf sprinter Nicole's Dream took trainer Larry Rivelli to stakes races all over the eastern half of the United States during an excellent career that concluded last year. Now, Rivelli has a good turf horse of an entirely different character. This one is named Strait of Mewsina, and he could hardly be more different than Nicole's Dream.

Where the filly was quick on her feet and deadly at five to 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, Strait of Mewsina is a big, raw long-distance horse from Ireland.

"He's got great scope on him," Rivelli said on Tuesday in Chicago. "I think he wants to run a mile and a half."

This Saturday at Laurel Park, Strait of Mewsina only has to run 1 1/16 miles, and he may just make a major impression in the $125,000 Laurel Futurity. Strait of Mewsina has won his last two starts, one in Ireland, the most recent at Keeneland, and is scheduled to take an 11-hour van ride from Hawthorne to Maryland on Wednesday. E.T. Baird, who is ready to begin riding at the Fair Grounds meet in New Orleans, will be in to ride Strait of Mewsina.

"He loves the horse," Rivelli said.

Followers of the Chicago circuit are used to seeing Rivelli-trained horses in claiming races, though he has gotten some decent youngsters in recent years. But Strait of Mewsina, owned by Richard Ravin, was purchased privately from owner-trainer Tommy Stack after he won his second career start back on June 22.

"I was trying to get him here in time to run in the Breeders' Cup, but he wasn't quite ready yet," said Rivelli.

Instead, Strait of Mewsina showed up in a Keeneland allowance race, coming from last behind a slow pace to win by a length, getting his final quarter-mile in about 23 seconds.

"He's a horse that's kind of lazy until you ask him," Rivelli said. "When you do, then he's gone."

Rivelli is making special concessions for his Irish import, sending him out for long, slow training sessions. The colt dislikes the dirt, and breezes slowly on it, but is staying fit in Chicago through gallops and jogs.

"He's on the Ireland training schedule," said Rivelli. "I'm trying to keep it as much like it was back home as I can."

Melissa's Dream tries Pago Hop

Strait of Mewsina is not the only Hawthorne-based grass horse leaving home for a stakes race this weekend; Melissa's Dream has been entered in Saturday's Pago Hop at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Melissa's Dream starts this weekend under the name of trainer Neil Pessin, but she has been trained through a progressively strong 2007 campaign by Chris Block, who put her through a half-mile dirt work on Saturday at Hawthorne. It took Melissa's Dream eight tries to clear her first allowance condition, but after winning an entry-level allowance on Oct. 7 at Hawthorne, she came back on Nov. 8 and won a second-level turf allowance by more than five lengths. The filly she beat in that start, Bold Angel, also was entered in the Pago Hop.

War Wolf faces easier opponents

While much of the Steve Asmussen stable will travel south - to Florida or Louisiana - after the Churchill meet ends this month, War Wolf has shipped north. Sixth in an entry-level allowance race on Nov. 11 at Churchill, War Wolf has shipped in from Kentucky for a race at the same class level on Friday at Hawthorne. The first-level allowance, carded for 6 1/2 furlongs, goes as race 5, and serves as the Hawthorne feature.

War Wolf has lost four races in a row, but faces horses of generally lesser quality than his recent foes in this spot, and could easily break through for Asmussen and jockey Lyndie Wade. War Wolf, however, may have to deal with Fun With Phil, another Churchill shipper, he from the barn of Steve Margolis. Fun With Phil returned from a six-month layoff in the Illinois-bred Lightning Jet Handicap on Nov. 3, and while he faded to fifth in that start, Fun With Phil could be a much tighter horse for Friday's race.