01/07/2009 12:00AM

Mousse Au Chocolat should love drop in class


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - After facing a steady diet of stakes competition in Europe and the U.S. last year at 3, Mousse Au Chocolat finally gets some sweet relief when she drops into allowance company for Friday's $46,000 feature race at Gulfstream Park. The race is for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Mousse Au Chocolat held her own on numerous occasions against stakes rivals earlier in her career. The daughter of Hennessey finished second in a Group 3 race at 2 and third against Group 2 opposition prior to shipping to North America last summer. She was also second, beaten less than a length, in an overnight stakes at Saratoga before concluding her 2008 campaign by finishing fifth in Belmont Park's Pebbles on Oct. 13. Her last victory came in a listed race in France in her 2-year-old finale.

"I was pretty pleased with her last two races," said Todd Pletcher, who has trained Mousse Au Chocolat since she arrived in the U.S. "She didn't break super well in her last start, and that compromised her chances. I don't think the added distance will hurt her, I believe she'll go a mile and one-sixteenth okay, and the drop in competition should really help."

The biggest question mark in the lineup is African Violet, runner-up to Proud Spell in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks in July, but who finished off the board in her only start on grass. A stakes-winning daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, African Violet has been working steadily at Payson Park for her first start since August.

"She had sore shins the first time I ran her on the turf, and I've really wanted to get her back on the grass ever since," said trainer Graham Motion. "She ran a super race against Proud Spell but it really knocked the wind out of her. That was evident after her next start and is why I've given her the last several months off."

Sway won a pair of races at the distance over the local course last winter. Now 5, Sway has been idle since finishing far back over the main track at the Meadowlands on Oct. 2, but returned from an even longer layoff to win her maiden here one year ago.

Star Dixie will be starting for just the second time since June 1. She also owns a win over the course and at this distance.

Lady on Holiday brings a two-race winning streak into the race, having rallied to narrow victories on both turf and dirt at Churchill Downs within a 15-day span in November.