05/26/2006 11:00PM

'Ryder' runs down pacesetter

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Adam Coglianese
Honey Ryder and Garrett Gomez (left) chase pacesetting Noble Stella into the stretch of the Sheepshead Bay Handicap. Honey Ryder won by a length.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Honey Ryder ended her drought over Belmont Park's turf course on Saturday by running down a loose-on-the-lead Noble Stella to win the Grade 2, $150,000 by one length before a crowd of 6,782.

Noble Stella, who tried to steal the race under Mike Smith, held second by a neck over Angara. She was followed in the order of finish by Asi Siempre, Serendipitous, Latice, and Tisket a Tasket.

Though Honey Ryder won for the 10th time in 23 career starts, she recorded her first win at Belmont in six tries. In her last race at Belmont, the 2005 Sheeps-head Bay, Honey Ryder finished fifth as the 2-1 favorite after pressing the early pace.

Saturday, under Garrett Gomez, Honey Ryder sat about two lengths off the pace for the opening mile before launching a bid around the far turn. Honey Ryder came outside of Noble Stella turning for home and was able to wear that rival down inside the eighth pole. Honey Ryder ($4.80) covered the 1 3/8 miles in 2:12.98 over firm ground, getting the final furlong in 11.49 seconds.

"Last year in the Sheepshead Bay we were never able to get her covered up, and John [Velazquez] came back and said she was just never relaxed," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Honey Ryder for the Glencrest Farm. "Today, she got covered up a little bit and was able to relax, plus she's just a better mare now than she was even a year ago."

Smith, aboard Noble Stella, said: "I tried to get away with all I could, keep things slow. The first time I spurted away I thought, 'Well, maybe I took a little steam out of her,' but she's so classy, that mare."

Pletcher said his goal for Honey Ryder this summer is the Grade 1, $750,000 Beverly D. at Arlington on Aug. 12. Pletcher said he may run her in the $750,000 United Nations against males on July 8 at Monmouth Park.