11/26/2001 12:00AM

Turf works heat up for weekend stakes


MIAMI - The turf course was open for training on Monday morning, and several candidates for this weekend's $100,000 Hollywood Wildcat and Mecke Stakes made the most of the opportunity. Prominent among them was the promising 2-year-old filly August Storm, who will likely be the favorite in the 1/16-mile Hollywood Wildcat.

With jockey Jose Ferrer aboard, August Storm breezed five-eighths of a mile from the half-mile to the six-furlong pole in 1:00.40. Samantha Randazzo, assistant to trainer Linda Rice, monitored the work by walkie-talkie with Ferrer to assure the speedy filly didn't leave her best race out on the track five days before the race.

"That's perfect," Randazzo told Ferrer as August Storm came down the stretch and completed her work around the clubhouse turn under a tight hold.

"The filly is doing very well," said Randazzo. "She proved she could stay a mile when she won here earlier this month, so I don't think a mile and a sixteenth should be any problem for her on Saturday." Randazzo said the current game plan for August Storm is to keep her here and point for the Tropical Park Oaks on New Year's Day.

August Storm is perfect since Rice switched her to the grass following a disappointing career debut on dirt, when she finished a tiring fifth as the 6-5 favorite at Saratoga on Aug. 5. A daughter of Storm Creek, August Storm came back to easily capture the five-furlong Prom Stakes at The Meadowlands on Oct. 12 before coming to Florida to register an equally impressive three-length win in the one-mile Lulu's Ransom Stakes.

While August Storm's work was just what her connections were looking for, it paled in comparison, at least time-wise, with the moves turned in by a couple of her potential rivals in the Hollywood Wildcat, Ciudad de Carson and Piano Chimes, who worked in company over the very firm course and drilled five furlongs in 58.20 and 59.20 seconds, respectively.

Ciudad de Carson never got an opportunity to run her best race in the Lulu's Ransom after flipping in the gate and unseating her rider before the start.

Piano Chimes was stakes-placed earlier this summer at Monmouth Park and most recently finished seventh in Aqueduct's Miss Grillo Stakes. Trainer John Salzman has shipped her in to Tim Ritvo, who will also send out the Lulu's Ransom runner-up, Social Place, in the Hollywood Wildcat.

Mountain Forum breezes on dirt

Although the turf course was available on Monday, trainer Ron Spatz chose to give Mountain Forum his final tune-up for the Mecke on the dirt, where the colt breezed a half-mile in 49.20 seconds just after the renovation break. Mountain Forum won his turf debut, rallying for a neck victory in the Fabulous Frolic Stakes.

"He's doing great," said Spatz. "I know this race is going to come up a lot tougher than the last one, but as good as he's doing I'm not looking to duck anybody. The biggest problem is that with his style we're going to need a little luck, because I know it's going to be a very large field."

Mr. Livingston goes seven-eighths

The last horse to work on the turf Monday morning may have been the best. The multiple grass stakes winner Mr. Livingston breezed seven furlongs in 1:25.60 in preparation for the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap on Dec. 8. Mr. Livingston won the Ensign Ray and Miami Mile Breeders' Cup handicaps here this summer before finishing ninth in Keeneland's Grade 2 Shadwell Mile.

"He was parked wide around both turns in Kentucky so I'm just throwing that race right out," said trainer Bill Kaplan. "I think he's better than ever since coming back this season. And we'll have Jerry Bailey aboard for the Tropical Turf."