08/12/2004 11:00PM

Side Bar likely headed to dirt


MIAMI - Sunday's one-mile Side Bar Stakes is billed as a prep for the Grade 3, $150,000 Miami Mile Breeders' Cup Stakes, which is scheduled for the turf course on Labor Day. But a week of steady rain and the peripheral effects of Hurricane Charley will likely prevent any of the turf specialists eyeing the Miami Mile from getting in a legitimate prep, as the Side Bar is almost certain to be switched from the grass to the main track.

A change in surface will not bother the connections of Super Frolic or Tour of the Cat, two of the 16 older horses entered for the Side Bar. Super Frolic, who is trained by Milt Wolfson for the Stride Rite Racing Stable, is the leader of the local handicap division on dirt but remains winless in five career starts on grass. Tour of the Cat captured the 2003 Miami Mile after the race was switched to the main track.

Super Frolic enters the Side Bar in peak form, having won his last two starts, including the Best of the Rest Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths on July 18. The prospect of a contested pace scenario should favor the stretch-running Super Frolic, whose best career performance on grass was a third-place finish in last year's Grade 3 Calder Derby.

Tour of the Cat will stretch out around two turns for the first time since finishing 11th behind Burning Roma in the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup on Feb. 14, and for the first time since coming under the tutelage of trainer Manny Wayar during the spring. Tour of the Cat, who can handle both turf and dirt, led throughout in a convincing 2 1/2-length victory in last year's Miami Mile but figures to have plenty of company on the lead in the Side Bar, with Smooth Lover, Island Skipper, and Paradise Dancer in the lineup.

Island Skipper has cycled back to peak form for trainer Ralph Ziadie, and has posted triple-digit Beyers in his last two starts, including a 104 for his second-place finish in the Best of the Rest.

Unbridels King, winner of the Mecke Handicap on turf July 4, Marco's Word, and Romolo's Fritzi are adept on turf or dirt and figure to compete in the Side Bar no matter the surface. Others, like French Charmer, Crack the Veneer, and Decaf, figure to fall victim to the wet weather and will probably await a more suitable prep for the Miami Mile.

French Charmer, a two-time stakes winner on grass in 2003, has not started since finishing seventh in the Tampa Bay BC in February. Trainer Harry Benson already missed one potential prep when he was forced to scratch French Charmer after the horse reared up and tore a shoe off in the paddock prior to the Mecke.

"If I can't run him Sunday, I might just have to run him cold in the Miami Mile," said Benson.