07/11/2007 11:00PM

Honey Rose must settle in stakes


There is a noticeable degree of separation between racing at Churchill Downs and Ellis Park, with many horses temporarily abandoning the Kentucky circuit when the dog days of summer arrive.

Major outfits, such as those trained by Steve Asmussen and Todd Pletcher, shift their emphasis to Saratoga while merely dabbling in the action at Ellis, the Henderson, Ky., track that will offer the first stakes of its 46-day summer meet Saturday with the $50,000 HBPA Handicap. Pletcher, with an Argentine-bred named Honey Rose, appears to have a sizable edge in the HBPA Handicap, a one-mile turf race that anchors an 11-race program that begins at 12:40 p.m. Central.

Calvin Borel has the mount on Honey Rose, who figures as a solid favorite breaking from post 4 in a field of nine fillies and mares.

Honey Rose began her North American career in promising fashion last fall after having become a Group 1 winner in her native land at the end of 2005. After finishing second in the Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf in her North American debut last September, she romped to victory in a classified allowance on the Keeneland turf, marking her as yet another potential star on the Pletcher shed row.

Honey Rose then went to Southern California for the winter, and was badly beaten in the Grade 3 Monrovia in her only appearance at the Santa Anita meet. In two appearances since then, both in allowance company on the Churchill turf, she has showed sustained speed before fading.

Michael McCarthy, the Pletcher assistant who has overseen the care of Honey Rose both in California and Kentucky, said the mare simply needs to relax in the early stages of her race to be more effective.

"She just never caught a breather last out," he said, referring to her third-place finish after getting into a lengthy early speed duel on June 15. "Hopefully, Calvin will be able to get her to settle, and she'll run like she's capable of running."

If Honey Rose lets her backers down again - she was 3-5 when beaten at Churchill last out - the ones most likely to pull a minor upset are Barbette, Tiz Nik, Life's Great, or Moon Berry. Of those, Tiz Nik, trained by Joan Scott, might have the most upside, and her recent work slate suggests she will be on her toes.

The HBPA field is completed by Ballad of Bertie, Yanquee Reign, Neon Lipstick, and My Little G T O.