05/03/2005 12:00AM

Mocha Queen merits long look in Mamzelle


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Mike Lauer had the proverbial cup of coffee on the 2005 Kentucky Derby trail when a colt named Snack won three minor stakes at Turfway Park over the winter. Lauer ultimately sold a majority interest in Snack for a healthy sum, then watched with sadness when the horse sustained a fatal breakdown in Southern California in his first start for his new connections.

Overall, however, Lauer retains fond memories of his fleeting moments in the limelight.

Now it is Derby Week, and Lauer, a trainer who also dabbles in breeding and ownership, has a couple of sideways connections to the race. He is an avid racing fan who tries to keep close tabs on Derby developments from his Churchill Downs stable, but he also has a horse in one of the 13 stakes that lead to Derby 131.

That horse is , and the race is the $100,000 Mamzelle Stakes, a five-furlong turf sprint that shares the Thursday spotlight at Churchill with the La Troienne Stakes.

"I think we've got a real good shot, considering how the race shapes up," said Lauer.

Mocha Queen, a late-running 4-year-old, drew post 8 in a field of nine fillies and mares. There does appear to be quite a bit of speed drawn to her inside, considering the presence of Anna Em, Speedy Sonata, and Nicole's Dream.

In her last start, Mocha Queen was unable to overcome the rail post when she finished fifth in a full field in the April 23 Stravinsky at Keeneland.

"She likes the grass course here more than the one over at Keeneland," said Lauer.

Indeed, Mocha Queen demonstrated a fondness for the course last November when she earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure by winning the Pent Up Kiss Handicap.

, trained by Larry Rivelli, was one of the horses that Mocha Queen defeated in the Pent Up Kiss, but she is always a danger in this kind of spot. Based again in Chicago after wintering in south Florida, Nicole's Dream owns 11 victories from 19 turf sprints, most notably a nose triumph in the 2004 Mamzelle.

Besides Mocha Queen and the faster ones she will try to run down, other logical contenders in the Mamzelle include a Chilean-bred, Hortense, and an Argentine-bred, . Both are here by way of the Southern California circuit.