10/12/2006 12:00AM

Several reasons to like Mauralakana


NEW YORK - The final round of major prep races for the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup takes place Saturday with the Champagne and Frizette stakes, supported by the Jamaica BC Handicap, at Belmont Park, and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup and the First Lady Stakes, supported by the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes, at Keeneland.

Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup

On the basis of European form, Mauralakana would appear to be no match in this race for French newcomers Germance and Quiet Royal. Mauralakana doesn't quite have the winning profile of Magnificent Song, who in this race will be seeking her second straight Grade 1 victory, and her fifth win from her last six starts. But Mauralakana is still the play here off a fine effort in her recent United States debut.

Mauralakana's first appearance in this country came three weeks ago in the Noble Damsel BC. She was able to close strongly into a modest pace, running her final quarter-mile in around 22.20 seconds, which is excellent, to be third. But what makes Mauralakana's Noble Damsel effort look even better is the fact that it came against good older opponents. She finished behind only the classy Karen's Caper, and Pommes Frites, whose only previous defeat this year was to Gorella, the best older turf female in the nation. Mauralakana is back in with straight 3-year-old fillies Saturday, and though that may not seem like a big thing, it does, in fact, represent a substantial class drop.

Thoroughbred Club of America

If heavy favorite Behaving Badly were running at the inside speed-favoring Keeneland of old in the form she is in right now, she would almost be a mortal lock. But she's not running at the old Keeneland. At this writing, four race cards have been completed at the new Polytrack Keeneland. And while four days of racing is a small sample, it is still striking - and a bit ironic - how speed is having such a difficult time winning. So with the thought that Behaving Badly is running on a surface that might actually compromise her, I'm going with Malibu Mint.

Malibu Mint is an effective closer. She demonstrated that when she crushed her field in the Princess Rooney Handicap, handing the brilliant Dubai Escapade her only loss of the year, and when she followed with a sharp second in the Honorable Miss Handicap. A repeat of either of those performances puts Malibu Mint right with Behaving Badly, even on equal footing. But it is only icing on the cake that in her prep for this Malibu Mint ran away with the Weekend Delight on the Polytrack at Turfway Park.

Calder Derby

Three of Can't Beat It's last four performances on turf are good enough to win this, and he can be forgiven for the other grass race during this sequence as he sort of lost contact with the field in the strangely run Colonial Turf Cup. Can't Beat It's odds will be unappealing, however. But there is an interesting alternative in Fancy Silver.

Fancy Silver was 40-1 last time out in the Needles Stakes, the local prep for this race, and he should have won. He took up on the rail in upper stretch after being shut off, sharply angled out, and still finished fastest of all to be beaten a neck. It's possible that race was a fluke, but since Fancy Silver is comparatively lightly raced, it is also possible he is just much improved.