05/26/2006 11:00PM

At Mountaineer, question is: Do they still have it?


Bettors at Mountaineer Race Track must gauge for themselves whether a pair of well-accomplished 8-year-olds in Monday's holiday features are still stakes-caliber runners or have lost a step or two.

Lady Grace, the queen of Mountaineer's turf course, makes her first start since September in the $75,000 Decoration Day Handicap, one race after Spruce Run, a Grade 3 winner last year, makes his second start of the year in the $75,000 Memorial Day Handicap. Both races are at one mile on turf.

As a 7-year-old last season, Lady Grace dominated the filly and mare grass division at Mountaineer by winning 5 of 6 starts, including two stakes. An 11-time winner on grass trained and owned by Loren Cox, Lady Grace came off a six-month layoff in 2005 to crush a field of medium-priced claimers.

Her competition in the Decoration Day includes last year's winner, Kaylan's Rose; the Kentucky-based Miss Wellspring, winner of a $100,000 turf stakes last season; and Ayla Bella, who is 3-for-5 on grass. Ayla Bella, idle since March, was cross-entered in a $40,000 overnight grass stakes at a mile on Sunday at Arlington Park.

Spruce Run, trained by Linda Rice, enjoyed a good season in 2005, winning the Grade 3 Robert Carey Memorial Handicap at Hawthorne and finishing second by a neck in the Grade 3 Red Bank Handicap at Monmouth. He tailed off considerably, however, in his last two starts of the year and ran poorly in his only race this season, the one-mile Lure at Gulfstream Park on April 1.

Most of the other contenders in the Memorial Day Handicap also have questions to answer.

Solo Cat has been solid in his most recent three races, all on turf, but is just 1 for 15 on the surface.

Beau Classic was a close second to Spruce Run in last year's one-mile Labor Day on turf here, and ran well in 2 of 4 starts on grass this past winter at Tampa Bay Downs. He has been freshened since a poor performance sprinting on dirt five weeks ago.

Parker Run takes a distinct class drop after facing Grade 3 company in his last two starts, but nearly all of his previous 18 turf races have been short sprints. The last time he raced a mile, Parker Run led until the final furlong of the Grade 2 Firecracker at Churchill Downs.