08/17/2004 11:00PM

Ritvo receives double dose of luck


MIAMI - Good fortune smiled not once but twice on trainer Tim Ritvo at Calder last Sunday, when his Class of Seventy scored an upset in the Side Bar Stakes. The one-mile turf race was the final local prep for the $150,000 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Handicap on Labor Day.

Ritvo was lucky Class of Seventy even got the opportunity to run over his favorite surface in the Side Bar. The turf course had been off limits for the previous two weeks and weather forecasters were predicting Hurricane Charley would dump another couple of inches of rain over the already waterlogged surface as the storm passed by the area last Friday. But Charley eventually drifted farther west than expected and the course dried out sufficiently to finally open for business again by Sunday.

Getting Class of Seventy on the grass was only half the battle. Winning the Side Bar was another matter. But Ritvo again got lucky, this time with the aid of jockey Manoel Cruz, who orchestrated a picture-perfect, rail- skimming trip for the stretch-running Class of Seventy. The horse did his part by finishing best of all to wear down the pacesetting Paradise Dancer in late stretch.

"These are the kind of races where you need to get a good trip, and in the end one trainer wins and six others think they should have won," said Ritvo, who trains Class of Seventy for Rey Wan Racing. "Fortunately, the guy who won today was me. I thought if the race stayed on the grass we'd have a good chance, since we were only beaten a length by Unbridels King after getting stopped on the turn earlier in the meet and he was the favorite in this race."

The victory was the eighth in 39 starts for Class of Seventy, who could have been claimed for $40,000 when he won an optional claiming race on July 2.

"I'm not sure if I'll run him back in the Miami Mile," said Ritvo. "We'll nominate and take a look at who might go in there. If nobody ships in from out of town and the field winds up pretty much the same bunch we beat today chances are we'll take a shot."

Among the major disappointments in the Side Bar were Tour of the Cat and Super Frolic, both of whom finished off the board. Tour of the Cat is the defending Miami Mile champion, although last year's edition of the Grade 3 stakes was taken off the grass and decided over the main track. Super Frolic, the leader of the local handicap division on dirt, continues to show his disdain for turf and is now winless in six career opportunities on grass.

French Charmer, who was on the outside looking in when unable to escape the also-eligible list for the Side Bar, worked a mile over the main track in 1:48.80 on Monday and will now be trained up to the Miami Mile, according to trainer Harry Benson. French Charmer, a two-time stakes winner last season, has not started since February.

Love That Moon primed

Friday's $40,000 Forty One Carats Stakes looks like a good spot for Love That Moon to get back on the winning track. The stretch-running Love That Moon will be making his third start since returning from a seven-month layoff in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint Handicap on July 10. He finished fifth in the Groomstick Handicap July 31, beaten four lengths by Gold Dollar after being forced to take up sharply near the quarter pole.

Love That Moon rose to the top of the local sprint division here late last season with three consecutive stakes victories, including a three-quarter-length upset of New York invader Pickem in the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap.

Formal Charade, who finished second as a 47-1 longshot in the Groomstick, will likely vie with Love That Moon for favoritism in a field that also includes Swift Replica, Model Home, Just Say the Word, and Bernard's Candy.

Three-win day for Mendez

Trainer Jose "Pepe" Mendez, who was inducted into the Calder Hall of Fame earlier this month, celebrated by sending out three winners on Tuesday's card, including both ends of the early daily double. Mendez captured the opener with Sweet Salvation, completed the double with Cloudy Gray, and earned a hat trick when Cool Honor proved a game winner of the fourth race. Jockey Abdiel Jaen was aboard all three winners.

Mendez, the leading trainer here in 1981, has won nearly 800 races at Calder. He is also a member of the Oriental Park Hall of Fame.

Mendez was one of four new inductees into the Calder Hall of Fame, along with jockey Eibar Coa, owner-breeder Gilbert Campbell, and the seven-time stakes winner Carterista.

* Word was received here recently of the death of former jockey Manuel Gomez, who rode for many years in Florida, New Jersey, and Canada. Gomez was the brother of the late Hall of Fame rider Avelino Gomez, who died in a riding accident at Woodbine in 1980.