07/02/2003 11:00PM

Wind Glider leads Criterium field


MIAMI - Want to know how tough it is to figure out Saturday's $100,000 Criterium Stakes at Calder? Even trainer Tim Ritvo, who will saddle two 2-year-olds in the 10-horse field, doesn't have any idea what to expect.

"I'm looking for both my horses to run well and be very competitive, but this race is extremely unpredictable," said Ritvo, who will send out Wind Glider and Moment of Song in the 5 1/2-furlong dash. "You've got a lot of horses with speed and a few who, on paper, have already run very fast breaking their maidens. But let's see how they do if they get pushed."

Ritvo already knows how the undefeated Wind Glider will respond when hooked on the lead. After an early pace battle, Wind Glider won a first-level allowance race by three-quarters of a length on June 9. A son of Rizzi, Wind Glider is the only multiple winner in the Criterium lineup.

"He just seems to be getting better and better," Ritvo said. "He's worked very well since that last race, and I don't think he has to be in front to win."

Moment of Song, the most experienced member of the field, was beaten a length by Wind Glider when the pair met in an allowance race last month.

"Moment of Song might have beaten Wind Glider if he didn't lug in through the stretch," Ritvo said. "I've had him gelded since the race and made some equipment changes, which hopefully will correct that problem."

The two fastest horses in the field are Sir Oscar and My Friend Bruce. Both won their debuts on the lead, Sir Oscar by 8 3/4 lengths against maiden special weight competition and My Friend Bruce by 6 1/2 lengths for a $50,000 claiming tag.

Sir Oscar is the only member of the Criterium field to have run 5 1/2 furlongs in under 1:06, covering the distance in 1:05.65 when he won his maiden. He is trained by Manny Azpurua, who has saddled four Criterium winners: Marshaller (1981), The Frog Man (1994), Classic Intuition (1995), and Jacksrbetter (2000).

Charming Jim and Painter's Sword also enter the Criterium with unblemished records, both having won their debuts at the maiden special weight level. Charming Jim, a $360,000 purchase at the February Ocala Breeders' sale, rallied from midpack to post a half-length victory in his career debut June 14. Painter's Sword led throughout to earn his diploma one week later.

Western Man, Sea Clip, Twice as Bad, and Alyazuli round out the field.