11/01/2007 12:00AM

Royal Highness stepping down

EmailOZONE PARK, N.Y. - On her best day, Royal Highness is simply better than the six fillies and mares she is scheduled to meet in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct. But, are Royal Highness's best days behind her?

Royal Highness, who finished second in last year's Long Island, has had a productive 5-year-old campaign, winning The Very One Handicap at Gulfstream in February and the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington in August. Royal Highness, however, came out of a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational Sept. 29 a bit sore and, according to trainer Christophe Clement, only in the last week to 10 days has she started training as well as she had.

"Do I have her back to her best form? I don't know," Clement said. "She's sound, she looks well, she's happy. It's her last race - she will be retired afterwards."

Clement added that Royal Highness prefers less-than-firm turf, something she confirmed with her poor performance in the Flower Bowl, run over a very firm Belmont turf course.

"You can see that as long as she was on the bridle she ran great, and when the jockey asked her to quicken she just would not let herself down on the ground," Clement said.

Royal Highness is the 122-pound highweight and will concede seven to nine pounds to the rest of the field, which includes her stablemate Green Girl. Green Girl will be making her first start for Clement after finishing sixth to English Channel in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational.

European shippers have had a history of success in the Long Island, contested at 1 1/2 miles. Dalvina, a 3-year-old daughter of Grand Lodge, appears the stronger of the two European shippers. Dalvina, a listed stakes winner to begin the year, has twice finished third in Group 2 races in Europe. She is trained by Ed Dunlop, who trained Ouija Board, two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

"We were thinking at the beginning of the season this filly could have gone the Ouija Board way," said Robin Trevor Jones, an assistant to Dunlop. "She won the Pretty Polly by six lengths. Unfortunately she just didn't progress from there."

Trevor Jones said Dalvina will be going to Graham Motion after this race.

Rising Cross has lost her last nine starts, including a last-place finish in the 2006 Beverly D. at Arlington. Her connections say she is a one-paced runner who should handle the 1 1/2 miles.

Miracle Moment could be the main speed in this field, though she has never won beyond 1 1/16 miles.