07/19/2006 11:00PM

Mocha Queen tries one mile


HENDERSON, Ky. - The paradox might be as old as racing itself. A horse that habitually makes a strong late move in one-turn races logically figures to fare even better at longer distances, but seasoned horseplayers know it just doesn't always work that way.

This vexing principle has been known to apply to a mare named Mocha Queen, whose rallying victory in her last start, a five-furlong overnight stakes at Churchill Downs, seemingly would make her even tougher to beat when she stretches out Saturday in the one-mile HBPA Handicap at Ellis Park. Yet trainer Mike Lauer is quick to acknowledge that while Mocha Queen has won at a mile before, her ideal distance is something a bit shorter.

"Obviously she's a better sprinter," said Lauer, who trains Mocha Queen for an ownership group that includes his wife, Penny, along with partners Barry and Terry Ward, and Jack Danehy.

Indeed, Mocha Queen, a 5-year-old by Cozzene, has knocked out more than $325,000 in earnings, most of that from finishing in the money in turf sprint stakes. Two starts back, she finished second behind the Bobby Frankel-trained Virden in a one-mile turf allowance at Churchill, after which she posted a lifetime-high Beyer Speed Figure of 100 in winning the July 2 Zenobia Empress at five furlongs.

"I wasn't aware she got a three-digit Beyer, but I knew she ran a very good race," said Lauer.

, with John McKee to ride, drew post 4 as part of a 12-horse field in the $50,000 HBPA Cap, the featured 10th of 11 races. Lauer said that regardless of the result, Mocha Queen likely will revert to six furlongs when she ships to Woodbine for her next race, the Grade 3, $150,000 Royal North on Aug. 7.

"She tends to run her best turning back," he said.

Besides Mocha Queen, the HBPA field also includes such useful runners as , a consistent gray mare trained by Bill Mott; and May Gator, a venerable 7-year-old whose 57-race career has yielded 37 in-money finishes and a bankroll of $558,923.

One allowance (race 8) and two starter-allowances (races 6 and 9) accompany the HBPA on a card that begins at 12:40 p.m. Central.