07/05/2007 11:00PM

Mauralakana gets class break


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It may seem like forever since Churchill Downs opened its 2007 spring meet on April 28 with the Derby Trial, followed quickly by Rags to Riches winning the Kentucky Oaks in the slop and Street Sense taking the Derby.

Or it may seem just like yesterday - but whatever the case, the end of the spring meet is at hand. The 52nd and final program of the meet comes Sunday, with the $150,000 Locust Grove serving as the closing-day feature.

Six fillies and mares will clash on the Churchill turf course in the 1 1/8-mile Locust Grove, with Mauralakana, one of two starters from the Patrick Biancone barn, likely to come favored over Quite a Bride. Mauralakana, a 4-year-old French-bred filly, has won just once in six starts since being imported to the United States, but she has kept impeccable company during that time, having competed against the likes of Ouija Board, My Typhoon, and Wait a While on the top shelf of the filly-mare turf division.

The Locust Grove is a Grade 3 race and thus represents something of a class break for Mauralakana. In fact, in her only North American race ranked any lower than a Grade 2 stakes, Mauralakana made easy work of an allowance field on May 23 at Churchill, earning a 98 Beyer Speed Figure. That type of effort probably would make her tough to deny in the Locust Grove.

Julien Leparoux has the mount on Mauralakana, who will break from post 2.

Right alongside Mauralakana in post 3 will be the other Biancone entrant, Countess Scala, who appears overmatched but nonetheless should serve a vital purpose. Countess Scala has good early speed, which should serve to keep Quite a Bride honest. In her last start, the Grade 3 Mint Julep at Churchill, Quite a Bride was allowed to set a leisurely pace, and she zipped home uncontested and set a turf-course record for 1 1/16 miles.

Rounding out the Locust Grove cast are Eyes on Eddy, Quiet Royal, and 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever.

The Locust Grove, named for the historic Louisville home once owned by Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark, is carded as the ninth of 10 Sunday races. The spring finale also includes a classified allowance (race 6) that presents an intriguing matchup between millionaires Perfect Drift and Brass Hat. First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.