05/21/2008 11:00PM

Mauralakana's style doesn't fit race flow

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Jim Lisa
Mauralakana's closing kick may be compromised by the lack of pace in the Sheepshead Bay.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The defections of Grade 1 winners Bit of Whimsy and Panty Raid removed two of the major concerns trainer Christophe Clement had going into Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap at Belmont Park. But one issue still remains.

There is absolutely no pace in the 1 3/8-mile turf race for Clement's 5-year-old mare Mauralakana, a closer.

"That's a concern,'' said Clement, who will give a leg up to jockey Kent Desormeaux. "I worry about the training and he'll have to worry about the riding."

Mauralakana has 2 wins and 1 second from 3 starts this year. She won the The Very One at Gulfstream, before finishing second to Hostess in the Grade 3 Orchid, also at Gulfstream. Last out, she closed from 10 lengths back to win the Mairzy Doates Handicap at Calder.

"She's a nice filly, she's a good-moving filly, she's got a good turn of foot,'' said Clement, who seeks his fourth win in this race. "Hopefully, [the turf] will not be too soft.''

Though he doesn't have Panty Raid to run, trainer Todd Pletcher will send out J'ray and Ochre. J'ray, who has been first or second in 13 of 19 career starts, finished a good second to Mauralakana in the Mairzy Doates, her first start beyond 1 1/8 miles.

"I thought she ran very well,'' said Pletcher, who seeks his third straight Sheepshead Bay and fourth overall. "She was just second best on the day. She ran her race, finished strong - just got outkicked by the other filly.''

Pletcher said he feels J'ray can successfully adapt to whatever pace scenario exists.

"If they're absolutely crawling, she'll be very close,'' Pletcher said. "She'd probably prefer to follow somebody if she could.''

Pletcher's other entrant, Ochre, could be the pacesetter. A 4-year-old daughter of Red Ransom, Ochre won a first-level allowance race by 6 1/2 lengths at Keeneland last out.

"She's one-paced, got a good gallop to her," Pletcher said. "We'll let her find her rhythm, wherever that is."

Rising Cross was beaten just two lengths by Communique in the Grade 3 Bewitch in her first start off a five-month layoff. Edgar Prado rides for trainer Roger Attfield.

Hostess beat Mauralakana in the Grade 3 Orchid, her first stakes victory. Though she is winless in five starts at Belmont, Hostess was beaten just

1 1/2 lengths by champion Lahudood in last year's Flower Bowl here.

Leap in the Sun, Herboriste, and Flawless Treasure complete the field.