05/26/2007 12:00AM

Honey Ryder repeats in Sheepshead


ELMONT, N.Y. - Honey Ryder rebounded from her 11th-place finish in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March so quickly that she gave her trainer, Todd Pletcher, confidence she was "as good as ever" entering Saturday's $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap.

Honey Ryder confirmed Pletcher's suspicions with a strong closing kick that carried her past stablemate Safari Queen in the final 100 yards en route to a one-length victory in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay before 7,138 at Belmont Park. Safari Queen, also trained by Pletcher, was second by three-quarters of a length over Hostess. La Dolce Vita was fourth and was followed in the order of finish by Wait It Out, Cliffrose, and Moon Dolly. Barancella and Factual Contender were scratched.

The victory was the 13th from 30 career starts for Honey Ryder, a 6-year-old daughter of Lasting Approval owned by Glencrest Farm. It also was her second straight victory in the Sheepshead Bay, making her the fifth mare to win this race in consecutive years. Previous repeat winners included Maxzene (1997-98), Sabin (1983-84), Glowing Tribute (1976-77), and Princess Pout (1970-71).

Honey Ryder was beaten by 10 lengths against males in the Sheema Classic, a race in which jockey Garrett Gomez lost his iron early. Also, Honey Ryder got bumped several times during the running of the race.

Pletcher took this opportunity to take the blinkers off Honey Ryder, something he had considered but was reluctant to do because the mare had been running so well.

"We're always trying to get her back, covered up a little bit," Pletcher said. "I thought we might as well go ahead and do it. Now is the time to try it. She probably would have won with blinkers today."

Gomez said he was a little hesitant in what he wanted to do early on, first asking his filly to stay close then electing to take back. She rated in sixth position for most of the trip before rallying four wide into the stretch and collaring Safari Queen in deep stretch. Honey Ryder covered the 1 3/8 miles in 2:13 over firm turf and returned $4.30 as the favorite.

"She's got a nice turn of foot to her," Gomez said. "She's just an all-class filly and you point her at her task and the good ones will show."