09/19/2005 11:00PM

Taygete has top figure, takes drop


ELMONT, N.Y. - Eight older fillies and mares from diverse backgrounds converge in Thursday's $65,000 Sky Beauty Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile route on the main track for nonwinners of a stakes race this year.

, who 11 days ago gave futile chase to Breeders' Cup-bound Stellar Jayne in the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap, takes a big class drop and looks like the logical favorite off her big-figure win at Saratoga two starts back.

Taygete, trained by Bobby Frankel, raced on turf in Southern California last year at 3, but she has raced exclusively on dirt in five starts as a 4-year-old, including back-to-back wins at Belmont and Saratoga during the summer. Her half-length victory in an optional claimer at Saratoga six weeks ago received a Beyer Speed Figure of 98, a number the rest of the field has not matched in 102 combined starts.

Of course, if finding the winner were always that easy, all horseplayers would be millionaires. There are several others in the Sky Beauty with a legitimate chance, and two with a potential tactical edge in a field with no clear pacesetter are A Song in A Minor and My Dear Lady, whose best races have come when positioned on or near the lead.

shipped from California to win a third-level allowance decisively on closing day of Belmont's spring-summer meet. That performance was so good it prompted her connections to run her back in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign a month later, but she broke slowly and never got close to a blistering early pace.

, a Group 2 winner on turf in her native Argentina, has won 2 of her 3 dirt starts since coming to the United States and is being given over to trainer John Ward. Her lone defeat came in the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap. Her one-turn mile victories at Gulfstream Park and Arlington Park suggest she will feel right at home out of the chute at Belmont, and the tactical speed she showed in those races is a potentially potent weapon.

Draw a line through My Dear Lady's last race, which came on turf at Arlington. She charged the gate, causing it to open prematurely, and was declared a non-starter.

Also in the field are: He Loves Me, the 2004 Iowa Oaks winner, and thus the field's only graded stakes winner on dirt, Provincial, Fait Accompli, Silent Siren, and Taittinger Rose, winner of last year's Pennsylvania Oaks.