07/01/2003 11:00PM

Meet's top turf stars clash in Americana


MIAMI - Leadership of the local turf division will be on the line when Love the Game and Mr. Livingston finally square off - weather permitting - in Friday's $100,000 Americana Handicap. The nine-furlong Americana highlights a special 13-race Fourth of July card at Calder.

Love the Game and Mr. Livingston are both undefeated on the grass this meeting. Each won a division of the split Blazing Sword Handicap on opening day, with Love the Game returning to capture the Carterista Handicap 15 days later. Mr. Livingston made his only other start this meet over the main track in the Memorial Day Handicap, finishing seventh while making his first start on dirt in more than three years.

Love the Game, a 5-year-old son of Mecke, is at the peak of his game. He is trained by Henry Collazo for the Acclaimed Racing Stable. Aurelio Toribio Jr., the hottest rider on the grounds this week, will be aboard Love the Game for the first time on Friday.

Mr. Livingston has raced at or near the top of the local turf division throughout his injury-plagued career. He appeared to be peaking for trainer Bill Kaplan before his seventh in the Memorial Day. Regular rider Manoel Cruz will be aboard once again.

Love the Game and Mr. Livingston will share high weight of 116 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile Americana, two more than Class of Seventy and Dancing Guy.

Dancing Guy won last year's Americana, although his victory came after the race was switched from the turf to the main track. The 8-year-old Dancing Guy is coming off his best effort since the 2002 Americana, a last-to-first neck decision over Shotgun Fire in the Grade 3 Memorial Day Handicap on May 26.

Cellars Merlot has yet to show he can beat the best of the division, although the prospect of a slow pace makes him a viable longshot in the Americana. He figures to set the pace in a field lacking in early speed and has already won a pair of allowance races this year when allowed to relax on the lead.

Simmer, Sea Pleasure, Stauch, Shotgun Fire, and High Ideal round out the starting lineup. Shotgun Fire has been entered for dirt-only by trainer Marty Wolfson.

Despite the presence of Dancing Guy, High Ideal is the one to beat should the race be transferred to the main track again this year.