05/20/2005 12:00AM

Angara heads French-connection quintet


ELMONT, N.Y. - Can't make it to the French Riviera this year? For horseplayers who can't get to France, a taste of France comes to them in Sunday's 47th running of the $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap at Belmont Park.

No fewer than five of the eight fillies and mares in the Grade 2 turf marathon began their careers in France. Four of them - Barancella, Dreams Come True, Kate Winslet, and Sauvage - peaked with similar Timeform ratings in the 104-108 range overseas. But it is Angara, whose best Timeform rating was a mere 93, who shares the role of highweight at 118 pounds.

The non-French imports in the race are: co-highweighted Honey Ryder, winner of the The Very One and the Orchid handicaps in her last two starts at Gulfstream Park; Finery, who won Aqueduct's Beaugay Handicap in her 2005 debut; and Minge Cove, second in Calder's Hollywood Wildcat last out.

made her first two U.S. starts at Santa Anita near the end of the winter and was outfinished each time after fighting for the lead at the stretch call. Trainer Patrick Biancone took her to Keeneland, added Lasix, and the results were a pair of wins that included the Grade 3 Bewitch. Those two wins also involved a switch to Gary Stevens, who will be aboard Angara once again in this 1 3/8-mile race scheduled for the Widener course.

"When you have a horse coming over from Europe, it takes about four to five months for them to get completely adjusted," said Biancone. "She comes from a good family. I trained her grandmother, Albertine. She later produced Arcangues, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic."

have also made the adjustment to U.S. racing.

Barancella won just 1 of 4 starts in France, but shipped across the Atlantic last fall and ran second in the Garden City Breeders' Cup here and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, both Grade 1 races.

Returned from a layoff by trainer Bobby Frankel in March, Barancella rallied mildly for fifth behind her multiple-stakes-winning stablemate Mehahertz in the Santa Ana Handicap, missing third in a three-way photo. She returned 11 days later and won an entry-level allowance, but had to work harder than expected to get up at odds of 3-10, and her Beyer Speed Figure of 85 was well below her previous form.

Belmont Stakes reserved seats sold out

Despite the fact that prices were more than doubled across the board, reserved seats for Belmont Stakes Day on June 11 are sold out. The old eight-tiered price range, from a low of $9 to a top of $150, was raised this year to a low of $20 and a high of $300.

General admission Belmont Stakes Day is $10. Clubhouse admission is $20.