06/14/2007 12:00AM

Teammate can rate, but may be too slow

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Though Bushfire, Take D' Tour, and Teammate have all won graded stakes racing on the lead, the key to their success in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park may be which one can best rate.

Toward that end, Teammate may hold a slight advantage in that she demonstrated the ability to relax in winning her first two starts this year, including last month's Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap over this strip. The question for handicappers is whether Teammate is fast enough to win the Phipps, run at 1 1/16 miles.

While Teammate won last month's Shuvee by one-half length over Sugar Shake, her running time of 1:38.19 was the slowest clocking for the race in 13 editions at one mile. Her Beyer Speed Figure of 88 was the lowest for that race since those figures began being published in 1990.

"That particular day the wind was right in their face down the backstretch,'' said Allen Jerkens, the trainer of Teammate and a three-time winner of this race when it was known as the Hempstead. "The track was a little slow that day. Still, I thought they'd shade 1:38. It was still good enough to win.''

Teammate stalked Sugar Shake in the Shuvee, and in winning a third-level allowance race over this strip earlier in the meet, she sat third early on.

"She doesn't have to be on the lead like she was last year,'' Jerkens said.

Jerkens also entered Miss Shop in the Phipps. She comes off a fifth-place finish in last Saturday's Just a Game on turf. On March 11, Miss Shop won the Grade 2 Rampart on dirt one week after finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Honey Fox on turf.

Take D' Tour will seek to join Heatherten and Sightseek as repeat winners of this race. Take D' Tour comes off a second-place finish in the Apple Blossom, when she was unruly before the race but still put forth a solid performance. The 10-week break between races is by design.

"The only race we missed was the Shuvee,'' trainer David Fawkes said. "We just wanted to give her a break. Older horses take a little longer to bounce back. She's not a spring chicken anymore.''

Bushfire won the Acorn and Mother Goose over this course as a 3-year-old. She finished sixth in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby Day, her first start of the year.

Promenade Girl won the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher last year. Ginger Punch is an improving filly in search of her first stakes victory.