09/12/2007 11:00PM

Is Astronomia classy enough?

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - Astronomia takes a substantial class hike Saturday, jumping from a second-level allowance victory at Saratoga into the Grade 3, $100,000 Noble Damsel Handicap at Belmont Park.

Rick Mettee, the assistant trainer overseeing Godolphin's New York division, hopes the mare's extensive international experience helps Astronomia handle the tougher competition.

"This is what I call a tough Grade 3," Mettee said. "She does have some pretty good form in Australia to fall back on, so she is not your average horse going from a two-other-than to a Grade 3. She's run against good fillies. Normally, we'd try to punch out another allowance condition but, it's getting near the end of the year and there are only so many races in and around this distance for her."

Astronomia faces nine fillies and mares in the one-mile race on the turf. Sugar Shake was entered for the main track only.

The New Zealand-bred Astronomia, 5, started her career in Australia. She wintered in Dubai before running in England last year. Astronomia arrived in the United States last winter and took a long time to acclimate. She did not run until Aug. 15 in a 5 1/2-furlong grass sprint at Saratoga, rallying from seventh to win by 2 1/4 lengths in a very flashy effort.

She tuned up for the Noble Damsel with a five-furlong turf breeze in 1:02.01 here on Sept. 9.

"It was a real good piece of work," Mettee said. "She seemed to handle this course really well. I expect another good run, but this is obviously much better competition."

The competition includes Fantastic Shirl, rallying winner of the De la Rose Stakes at Saratoga last time out.

"I thought we had no chance," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "Then the last eighth of a mile, here she came. This race is good timing. She's come back very well and it looks like a mile suits her best.''

Fantastic Shirl is 3-1-0 in five one-mile races on grass.

Pommes Frites figures to be a prominent pace factor from the outside post. Most recently, she set the pace in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Handicap at Saratoga before finishing fourth. Her prior effort was a pace-prompting win in the Lighthouse Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 7.

Pommes Frites, trained by Bill Mott, was second in last year's Noble Damsel.

Completing the field are Swap Fliparoo, Silver Charades, Bayou's Lassie. Sky High Flyer, Amansara, Dance Away Capote, and Rahys' Appeal, who adds blinkers.

- additional reporting

by David Grening