09/13/2001 11:00PM

A 'Wild' claim pays off for Ritvo


MIAMI, Fla. - Wild Imagination, a 7-year-old who proved to be one of the better claims of the Saratoga meet, will make his local debut against six rivals, including the promising 3-year-old Marco's Word, in Sunday's $30,000 feature. The 1 1/16-mile race will be decided under optional claiming conditions.

Trainer Tim Ritvo claimed Wild Imagination for $20,000 on Aug. 5 and was quickly rewarded with both a second-place finish and an easy 7 1/2-length victory against $35,000 claiming rivals at Saratoga. Wild Imagination, a son of Wild Again who finished fifth behind Lemon Drop Kid in last year's Suburban Handicap, brings career earnings of more than $400,000 to south Florida and will play catch me if you can Sunday under Eibar Coa.

Marco's Word has finished second in his only two previous starts against older horses, most recently missing by less than a length to Diablo Reigns under similar conditions on the turf. The versatile colt had won three of his previous five starts and has not finished worse than third in his last eight tries.