05/24/2006 11:00PM

Honey Ryder hard to toss or support

Silver Train (right) could control the early pace in Monday's Met Mile.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Three stakes with diverse dynamics await handicappers at Belmont, as Memorial Day weekend unofficially kicks off the summer.

How to handle probable favorite Honey Ryder in Saturday's Sheepshead Bay Handicap is open to debate. She pressed the pace and weakened to finish fifth as the favorite in this race a year ago, but that remains her only loss from four starts at 1 3/8 miles. She has won four of her five subsequent starts, all stakes, at Delaware, Saratoga, Woodbine, and Gulfstream, where she most recently won the Orchid Handicap for the second straight year and ran a lifetime top Beyer Speed Figure.

On the plus side, Honey Ryder likes to rate and finish, and did not get to employ those tactics when head and head for the lead in this race last year.

The potential negative is that Honey Ryder has a history of running her fastest races on other turf courses, and her slowest ones at Belmont. She is typically in the mid- to upper 90's, and the 89 from last year's Sheepshead Bay is actually her best showing from five local starts, the others receiving figures of 67-68-85-87, though they were much earlier in her development.

Meanwhile, Asi Siempre, Angara, and Tisket a Tasket have all run their Beyer tops locally.

First time out this season, Asi Siempre reared at the start and was five wide turning for home in the Jenny Wiley; she was up for second over Mirabilis, who then won a Grade 3 turf mile at Churchill Downs.

Angara had a tough setup first out for Bill Mott behind stablemate Pommes Frites, who wired the Beaugay Handicap on an easy lead. A close second in this race last year, Angara figures to improve stretching back out, particularly if rain forecast for Friday and early Saturday puts some cut in the ground.

Tisket a Tasket relished more distance while winning an overnight stakes at 1 1/4 miles last out, steadying into the far turn and dropping back, circling rivals into the stretch and running past four rivals through a fast final quarter of 22.81 seconds.

Not Phone's direction hard to figure

The key question concerning Sunday's Jaipur Stakes, shortened this year to six furlongs on the Widener turf, is what to do with Not Phone.

On day two of the meet, Not Phone ran six furlongs on the inner turf in a course-record 1:07.89 after slipping through along the inside entering the stretch. Some bettors will anticipate a bounce, because horses who run big off layoffs of seven months typically back off afterward, especially 8-year-olds who strike the ground with a hard pounding action, like Not Phone does. But he ran similar figures winning back-to-back starts on the Widener last spring, and returned in the fall to finish close behind Funfair and Artie Schiller in the Kelso with a 107 Beyer, so he has a better number to run back to than his last-out 99.

The likeliest alternatives/additions in multi-race exotic plays will probably include Around the Cape, who has found his niche this year in turf sprints, and Blakelock, who was third behind Keep the Faith's course-record performance on this course last July.

Silver Train threat to wire Met Mile

One thing jumps out at you about the probable contenders for the Met Mile, the traditional Memorial Day feature: For such a prestigious Grade 1 worth $600,000, there isn't much early speed.

Silver Train capitalized on a similar pace scenario to wire the Jerome Handicap last fall, and it is expected he will be handled more aggressively than was the case in an optional claimer at Aqueduct on April 20, a quintessential prep in which he broke through the gate before the start and was hemmed in much of the way before galloping out strongly after the finish.

Silver Train moves up many lengths on Belmont's main track, so he seems very likely to run a peak race, which for him is a Beyer in the range of 110 to 114. Among those he is expected to face, the only two with figures that match up are Love of Money, his stablemate who reportedly will run only in the event of a wet track; and Sir Greeley, whose only loss from five starts at a mile came against Silver Train in the Jerome.

Sir Greeley comes off a 109 Beyer for winning the Westchester Handicap on opening day. Twice previously he has run figures of that caliber, however, and they were followed by regressions of 13 and 10 points.

In the Met, it's probably a good idea to climb back aboard the Train.