03/06/2008 12:00AM

Clement seeks sixth Very One


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Christophe Clement has already won the $100,000 The Very One Handicap five times, including last winter with Royal Highness. He is a good bet to add yet another notch to that belt when he sends out Mauralakana in Saturday's Grade 3 fixture for fillies and mares.

Clement has entered both Mauralakana and Duchess Royale in the 1 3/8-mile The Very One, although Duchess Royale was also entered - and expected to start - in a softer allowance race here the previous afternoon for her U.S. debut.

Mauralakana was purchased by her present owner, Robert Scarborough, in November. She has not started since finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita on Sept. 29. Mauralakana had previously been trained by Patrick Biancone.

"I'd prefer to start her back at a mile and one-eighth rather than this distance, but there aren't that many mile-and-one-eighth stakes for fillies and mares on the grass here any more," said Clement. "But I like her and she's trained well, and I don't feel the distance should be any problem. Especially the way she ran for Patrick in the Glens Falls."

Mauralakana finished second, beaten a neck by Rosinka, in the Grade 3 Glens Falls last summer at Saratoga. She also won the Grade 3 Locust Grove Handicap at Churchill Downs and was sixth, beaten just over three lengths, in the Grade 1 Diana Handicap in 2007.

Duchess Royale won 2 of 6 starts in England at 3 but will be facing her toughest assignment yet if she runs in the Very One.

"If the race goes on Friday, I'll keep her in the allowance," explained Clement. "If not I'll start both horses in the stakes. She will stay, too, but hasn't tackled this type of horses yet at this stage of her career."

Mauralakana will likely vie for favoritism with J'ray, the venerable New York-bred who won three stakes in 2007, all against open competition, including a pair of Grade 3 races. A disappointing third as the 2-1 favorite opening her 2008 campaign in the Suwannee River Handicap here last month, J'ray will be stretching out beyond nine furlongs for the first time in her career on Saturday.

Hostess, who finished fourth, 2 1/2 lengths behind Mauralakana, in the Glens Falls, returns to more suitable company after closing out her 4-year-old season finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl and seventh in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes. She also placed in two Grade 2 stakes, finishing third in both the New York and Sheepshead Bay handicaps.