After finishing fifth as the favorite in last year's Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT), Glencrest Farm's Honey Ryder returns to Belmont Park Saturday as the horse to beat once again in the $150,0000 feature for fillies and mares.
The ultra-consistent Honey Ryder turned in her worst effort of the year in the 2005 Sheepshead Bay for trainer Todd Pletcher, setting the pace in the 11-furlong turf event before fading to fifth. This time around, she is coming off an easy four-length win in the Orchid Handicap (gr. IIT) April 1 at Gulfstream.
The Sheepshead Bay is the first of three graded stakes run this Memorial Day weekend, with the headliner being Monday's $600,000 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I).
Honey Ryder has won at Saratoga, Gulfstream, Calder, the Meadowlands, Delaware and Woodbine, where she scored a grade I win in the E.P. Taylor last year. Yet the 5-year-old mare is winless in five starts on the Belmont Park lawn.
Martin Schwartz's Asi Siempre figures to be the second choice in the Sheepshead Bay. She finished second in her only start at Belmont, the Garden City Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) last fall, her first race in the U.S. and her first for trainer Patrick Biancone after six races in Europe.
Since the Garden City, Asi Siempre has made all three of her starts at Keeneland, winning twice last fall before she was second in her 2006 debut behind Wend in the Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT). Asi Siempre races without blinkers Saturday.
Latice, Noble Stella and Angara are also Sheepshead Bay starters who began their careers in Europe.
Angara was second in the Sheepshead Bay last year and three starts later posted a mild upset in the Beverly D. (gr. IT) at Arlington. She has been unable to run back to the Beverly D., but may improve in her second start in 2006 for new trainer Bill Mott.
Angara raced sixth in her first race of the season, the Beaugay (gr. III), which at 1 1/16 miles, was probably on the short side for her.
Augustin Stable's Latice comes off a win in a conditioned allowance at Keeneland going one mile for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. The Irish mare won at 12 furlongs in Saratoga's Waya last year and was a good second behind Honey Ryder in the E.P. Taylor, beaten only one-half length.
Noble Stella is a consistent mare based in Canada for trainer Roger Attfield. She met Honey Ryder at Gulfstream in the Orchid and was beaten six lengths.$150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 8, 4:45 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 3/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Honey Ryder (KY), 121, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Half Heaven (NY), 112, Norberto Arroyo, Jr.
3. Latice (IRE), 118, Cornelio H. Velasquez
4. Noble Stella (GER), 116, Mike E. Smith
5. Asi Siempre (KY), 116, Julien R. Leparoux
6. Angara (GB), 119, Edgar S. Prado
7. Serendipitous (KY), 113, Michael J. Luzzi
8. Tisket a Tasket (KY), 114, Eibar Coa