07/14/2005 12:00AM

Honey Ryder has class edge in Dick


Trainer Todd Pletcher intends to be in Lake Tahoe this weekend to attend his brother-in-law's wedding. No one will fault Pletcher if he steps away from the reception for a few minutes to sneak in a quick phone call back East to find out the results of a couple of big horse races.

While Pletcher is away, his assistants will saddle heavy favorite English Channel in the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs and Honey Ryder, the favorite for Saturday's $300,000 Robert G. Dick Memorial Breeders' Cup Handicap at Delaware Park.

The Dick, a 1 3/8-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares, goes as race 9, one race after the featured $500,000 Delaware Oaks.

Honey Ryder, 4, is a long-distance turf specialist who will be making her first start since pressing the pace and fading late as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Handicap at Belmont Park on May 22. Pletcher said he believes Honey Ryder will run better going around an extra turn at Delaware.

"She's at her best from a mile and three-eighths to a mile and a half," Pletcher said, noting that Honey Ryder won back-to-back graded stakes at Gulfstream Park at those distances in March and April. "But at Belmont," he noted, "that's a two-turn race, and she seems to do better around three turns."

will be ridden by Edgar Prado for the first time.

As the only graded stakes winner in the field, Honey Ryder owns a distinct class edge over a group that has largely been competing against allowance runners.

One exception is , a 4-year-old based in Maryland with trainer Ed Gaudet. Last fall at Pimlico, With Affection came within a neck of winning the Grade 3 Martha Washington. Unlike that race, where she stalked and closed, With Affection has flashed early speed and tired in her two tries against stakes company this season.

merits respect based on her record over the course and her connections. Trainer H. Graham Motion has won the Dick each of the past three years and has won at least one stakes on Delaware Handicap Festival weekend each of the past six seasons.

In four starts over the Delaware turf, Sweet Science has two wins, including a five-wide move to get up by a half-length in her most recent start, against second-level allowance runners on June 26.

Other contenders include Natalie Beach, winner of a restricted stakes at Belmont last time out; Joyful Chaos, who has won back-to-back allowance races in New Jersey and Kentucky for trainer Christophe Clement; and Gijima, a Michael Dickinson-trained 4-year-old who narrowly lost a turf stakes at Delaware a year ago.

Carpenter: Cherokee's Boy formidable

Cherokee's Boy, a nose shy of owning a four-race winning streak, heads a field of eight older horses going 1 1/16 miles in the $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Jr. Memorial Handicap (race 7).

A 5-year-old trained by Gary Capuano, Cherokee's Boy is a 12-time winner with $737,096 in earnings. His last three starts consist of back-to-back wins in stakes at Monmouth and Delaware, plus a nose loss in an overnight stakes at Delaware.

Royal Assault, getting class relief after finishing fourth behind Limehouse in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap; Separato, a neck behind Cherokee's Boy in the Brandywine Handicap two starts ago; and Super Frolic, winner of two of his last three starts, are viable alternatives to Cherokee's Boy.