Updated on 09/17/2011 11:40PM

Honey Ryder at her best to win Orchid 'Cap

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EQUI-PHOTO
Honey Ryder with John Velazquez riding wins the $150,000 Orchid Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Honey Ryder won the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes in her 2005 finale. But even trainer Todd Pletcher admitted that effort may have paled in comparison to Honey Ryder's performance in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 , in which she exploded to a four-length victory over Olaya and set a course record in the process.

Honey Ryder, a 5-year-old daughter of Lasting Approval, was confidently handled by jockey John Velazquez from the outset of the 1 1/2-mile Orchid. Rating kindly in midpack for the opening mile, Honey Ryder advanced three wide while sent after the leaders approaching the stretch, readily overtook the leaders nearing the eighth pole, then drew off with

authority in the final furlong. Olaya swung out into the stretch and finished willingly to be second best, two lengths in front of Noble Stella.

Honey Ryder ($4) covered the distance in 2:23.07 over a firm course, shattering the old mark of 2:25.11 set by Approved by Dylan here Feb. 23. The win was the fourth of five on the day and second of three stakes victories for Pletcher.

"I think that was the best race she's ever run, and that's saying a lot, because she's been such a good, consistent mare," said Pletcher, who trains Honey Ryder for the Glencrest Farm LLC. "It seems like the older she gets, the more she has matured, and she rated well today, which is the key to delivering this type of performance."

Pletcher said Honey Ryder could return in the Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland on April 26.