07/13/2005 11:00PM

Take Natalie Beach over Honey Ryder

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NEW YORK - The boutique summer meets at Del Mar and Saratoga are just around the corner, but the power on Saturday's national stakes schedule can be found in the Mid-Atlantic region, specifically at Colonial Downs and Delaware Park.

The $750,000 Virginia Derby heads a card at Colonial that also includes two other $200,000 stakes - the All Along Breeders' Cup and the Virginia Oaks. The $500,000 Delaware Oaks is the main event at Delaware Park, supported by the $300,000 Robert G. Dick Memorial Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Robert G. Dick Memorial

Honey Ryder drops in class off of five straight starts in graded stakes, two of which she won. She is the only horse in the main body of this race who is a graded-stakes winner at this 1 3/8-mile distance, which means she is a legitimate favorite. But, Honey Ryder will be making her first start in nearly two months, and her most recent appearance came off a layoff of seven weeks. This recent inactivity raises the question of her current condition, and makes her a risky proposition, especially at low odds.

I like Natalie Beach, who comes into this off the two best races of her career, both wins at Belmont Park. The first of those was an optional-claiming event, in which Natalie Beach made a sustained run - she ran her second quarter-mile in approximately 23 seconds, her third quarter in 23.20, and fourth and final quarter in around 23.60 - to get up over a next-out winner. Last time out, Natalie Beach finished powerfully to win the restricted England's Legend Stakes. She went her fourth quarter in that 1 1/8-mile race in 22.80, and her final eighth in approximately 11.60, meaning she went her last three-eighths in an excellent 34.40. Any horse that can finish that well should find the added distance in this race well within her scope. It is also a plus that Natalie Beach posted two wins and a third in a small stakes in her three starts over the Delaware turf course last summer.

All Along Breeders' Cup

There are several stakes-seasoned mares in this race, but it is still a great spot for Stupendous Miss to get her first American stakes victory, and she can do it at a square ticket.

Stupendous Miss has made four starts in this country this year, and ran well in each of them. She won her North American debut at Santa Anita in February at this 1 1/8-mile distance over a yielding course, which is something worth considering what with the chance of thunderstorms in the forecast up and down the Eastern seaboard through the weekend. Her other victory was a dominant score last time out at Churchill Downs, in which Stupendous Miss earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100, which matches or exceeds the top lifetime Beyer of every other horse in the race. In fact, the only time Stupendous Miss has been worse than second in this country was when she was sixth in the Santa Ana Handicap, and that was far from a poor effort. She was beaten only three lengths for all the money, and that race was won by Megahertz, who is by far the most accomplished older female turf horse in this country this year.

Virginia Derby

Even though the once-beaten English Channel figures to be a solid favorite here, this race is actually much more wide open than his odds may suggest. This is by far the toughest field English Channel has ever faced, what with Crown Royal American Turf and Hill Prince winner Rey de Cafe and Jefferson Cup winner Rush Bay in the lineup.

But, if Rey de Cafe is a strong contender, and he is, then I can certainly take a flyer with Prince Rahy, who was beaten only a nose by Rey de Cafe in the Hill Prince, and who is 20-1 on the morning line, as compared to 6-1 for Rey de Cafe.

Prince Rahy ran every bit as well as Rey de Cafe in the Hill Prince, and his third in last Sunday's Lexington Stakes was a better effort than it looks on paper. He was hard held early and rank off a very slow pace, which compromised his closing style, and he also lost meaningful ground when four wide around the far turn.

Saturday

Delaware Park: Robert G. Dick Memorial B.C. Hcp.
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 3/8 miles, turf

Approximate post: Eastern-4:21 p.m., Central-3:21 p.m., Mountain-2:21 p.m., Pacific-1:21 p.m.; Stanton, De., forecast: Chance of thunderstorms, 84 degrees

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Honey Ryder8997983-1
2Orkan83868512-1
3Joyful Chaos90885715-1
4Conspiring85787710-1
5Sweet Science82808512-1
6Missmaybe79768120-1
7Baxter Hall85778310-1
8Natalie Beach9392858-1
9Gijima81718520-1
10With Affection8589888-1
11Victory Spirit75726820-1
12Kate Winslet8286756-1
Also eligible:
13Vallera58n/an/a12-1
14Bay Tree81677915-1

Track morning line odds

Colonial Downs: All Along B.C. Stakes
Fillies and mares, 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-4:53 p.m., C-3:53 p.m., M-2:53 p.m., P-1:53 p.m.; New Kent, Va., forecast: Chance of thunderstorms, 91 degrees

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Larrupin Gal71806120-1
2Topiary85778220-1
3Coquinerie45638420-1
4Stormin' Daina59736830-1
5With Affection85898820-1
6Broad Hopes91918015-1
7Snowdrops9685909-2
8Stupendous Miss10089946-1
9Dynamia9296816-1
10Sagitta Ra86868212-1
11Humoristic89988815-1
12Path of Thunder90100914-1
13Class Yankeen/an/a7550-1
14Briviesca9989987-2

Track morning line odds

Colonial Downs: Virginia Derby
3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles, turf

Approximate post: E-5:40 p.m., C-4:40 p.m., M-3:40 p.m., P-2:40 p.m.; New Kent, Va., forecast: Chance of thunderstorms, 91 degrees

PPHORSELAST 3 BEYERSODDS
1Rebel Rebeln/an/an/a9-2
2Chattahoochee War9090965-1
3Prince Rahy8894868-1
4English Channel9290939-5
5Crown Point89908715-1
6Spring House94887910-1
7Silver Whistle87816920-1
8Rush Bay9595848-1
9Interpatation83898120-1
10Rey de Cafe9495956-1
11Criminal Mind78938420-1

Track morning line odds