02/25/2002 1:00AM

Star Over the Bay looks bright


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Tim Ritvo does not have to be asked whether he thinks Star Over the Bay can win Wednesday at Gulfstream.

All that needs to be known is Ritvo fully believed the colt would have been very competitive Saturday if rain had not forced the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap off the grass. Star Over the Bay was one of five horses, including Hap, who was scratched from the race.

"I know it was going to be a tough, tough race," said Ritvo. "But we were really looking forward to trying him against those kinds of horses. I truly believe this horse is going to be okay."

So without Hap and other horses who long ago passed through basic allowance conditions, Star Over the Bay should take plenty of beating in

the ninth of 10 races here Thursday, a $38,000, three-other-than allowance at "about" a mile on turf.

Star Over the Bay, a 4-year-old Cozzene colt, is one of 40 horses that Ritvo trains at Calder, which has been his year-round base for about 12 years. Ritvo, 37, a former jockey who won about 500 races in five years in his native New England before turning to training, currently is enjoying his best Gulfstream meet. Through Monday, he had started 50 horses, with eight wins, 14 seconds, and seven thirds.

"Everything's falling into place right now," he said. "It's been a great meet so far. It seems like I'm bringing over live horses almost every day."

Star Over the Bay might very well continue that welcome trend. Although he has gone winless in his last seven starts, several of those races were stakes. When Ritvo has ran him at this level, Star Over the Bay has responded with solid efforts, and he clearly is a major contender Wednesday.

The ninth race is co-featured with another split of the same three-other-than turf allowance, which is carded as the sixth. In that race, Megantic, returning from a 4 1/2-month layoff for trainer Bill Mott, should take plenty of action.

Megantic, owned by the Brushwood Stable of Creme Fraiche fame, is by Theatrical out of a Jade Hunter mare, a highly familiar cross from the late Allen Paulson's matings.

In his first six starts, Megantic had two wins, two seconds, and two thirds. His seventh and most recent start was a fourth-place finish in the Oct. 13 Lawrence Realization at Belmont.

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