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Sheema Classic: Honey Ryder in focus
by Geir Stabell / Globeform
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Honey Ryder, one of the best turf mares in USA, is set to met the boys in the Sheema Classic (G1).

She was highly successful – and conistent, last year, winning four of her seven races, at three different tracks, she was third to Ouija Board in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and she made a nice seasonal debut at Gulfstream Park last month. Honey Ryder is one of five Dubai shippers from Todd Pletcher – a record breaking champion trainer in North America.

Could she be his best hope on the big day?

She closed her lucrative 2006 campaign, worth close to a million dollars in prizemoney, by finishing a game third, 3 ½ lengths behind Ouija Board, in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs. Honey Ryder ran right up to her best that day, finishing a neck behind her arch rival Film Maker and producing Globeform 117. Honey Ryder had just got the better of Film Maker at Belmont Park in October, when they met in the Flower Bowl Handicap (G1) previously, but – interestingly – they both ran below their best there. They had an ideal prep for the Filly & Mare Turf. The pace, set by outsider Jade Queen, was slow and the contest developed into a stretch dash, rather than a test of stamina. Honey Ryder enjoyed a ground saving trip and won by no more than a nose but she was also giving 1kg to Film Maker.

Honey Ryder has won seven of her last 11 races and she has become a very solid performer. She also produced her best when carrying top weight to a game head win over Olaya and Latice in a tough R G Dick Memorial at Delaware Park last July (she also won the event in 2005). She came from off the pace to outstay the competition, giving 6lbs to both of her nearest rivals. Honey Ryder had been on a break leading up to this win, following her easy 4-length win over Noble Stella in the Sheepshead Bay Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park. In between this win and the Flower Bowl, she finished fourth behind the brilliant Gorella in the Beverly D Stakes (G1) at Arlington in August.

Having landed the E P Taylor Stakes (G1) over 10 furlongs at Woodbine in 2005, and the 12-furlong Orchid Handicap (G3) at Gulfstream on her second start in 2006 (by 4 lengths from Olaya), Honey Ryder’s profile is undoubtedly best over 10 to 12 furlongs, and running fourth behind Gorella in the 9.5-furlong Beverly D was not at all a bad effort. She was beaten 2 ¼ lengths.

The daughter of Lasting Approval made a most encouraging start to the 2007 season in the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) over 11 furlongs on February 24. Facing ten males, she was second, a neck behind Jambalaya, after finishing with a flourish. Einstein was a close third and he has since won a big race at the Fair Grounds, giving the form a nice boost.

Honey Ryder is a thoroughly game and genuine performer, who improved to Globeform 117 as a 5-year-old, after having produced GF 111+ at four. She has run well on five different tracks, so coming to Nad Al Sheba is unlikely to faze her. She is suited by firm ground but has also won on soft, she stays well and her best performances have come when she has had the opportunity to close into a strong pace. She was compromised by a steady pace in her last race. Give her quicker earlier fractions at Nad Al Sheba, and she will be passing many in the straight.

This will be the tenth running of the Sheema Classic, and thus far no filly or mare has won the big turf race. And no grey has won it. Can Honey Ryder become the first to break both these ‘stats’ down?

Well, stranger things have happened – much stranger things - particularly in horseracing!

Published: 2007-03-20 04:35:59

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