Mauralakana Resolute Winner of Locust Grove Finale

Mauralakana collared even-money favorite Quite a Bride a furlong from home and drew clear in the final stages to win the $162,900 Locust Grove Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) for fillies and mares, bringing down the curtain on the 2007 Churchill Downs spring meet Sunday.

The 4-year-old French-bred filly, ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Patrick Biancone, registered her first graded stakes win. She completed the 1 1/18-mile turf event in 1:47 4/5 while winning by 1 1/4 lengths.

Quiet Royal, ridden by Chris DeCarlo and trained by Todd Pletcher, rallied on the inside to nose Quite a Bride and Robby Albarado for second.

Mauralakana was close up throughout, racing a bit off the rail before angling out on the final turn to follow Quite a Bride into the stretch run. Quite a Bride did not have an easy time when she was challenged on the front end by 60-1- shot Countess Scala, and was forced to push the pace -- :24, :47 4/5 and 1:11 4/5 -- before putting away Countess Scala. Quite a Bride, traveling wide for Albarado, opened up a clear lead after passing Countess Scale on the turn. She responded well to urging but could not hold off the winner and just missed holding second.

The winner carried 118 pounds, five fewer than the top-weighted Quite a Bride.

Coming off a fourth-place finish in the one-mile Just A Game (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park one month ago, Mauralakana won for the second time in seven American starts since being transferred to Biancone last fall. The bay daughter of Muhtathir ran second in last year's Queen Elizabeth II Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland before a troubled seventh in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT). Her other U.S. victory came in a 1 1/16-mile allowance on the Churchill Downs turf May 23, the race prior to the Just A Game.

“We figured she would appreciate a little more distance than a mile," Biancone said. "Last time we ran her too short, and she came in fourth. She’s only been here for six months, and she really improved. The more she’s stayed here, the more she’s improved."

She earned $99,989 for owners Maurice Hassan, Lewis Lakin, Richard Giacopelli, and Fab Oak Stable, and has now banked $470,352 in her career while winning six of 16 races.

Sent off as the second choice in a field of six, Mauralakana paid $5.60, $3.40, and $2.40.

Quiet Royal, a three-length winner at Arlington Park in her last start, the Reluctant Guest, returned $5.40 and $2.80.

Quite a Bride, who won the 1 1/16-mile Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT) over the course in her last start for trainer Bill Mott, was $2.10 to show.

Albarado said the pressure applied to Quite a Bride by Countess Scala was a factor in final yards of the race.

“A mile and an eighth may be just a little bit long for her, especially when she was contested up the backside like she was,” he said. “If she did it within herself or by herself, she could probably be there all day long; but, times when she gets pressured, it gets to be a little too much and it took a toll on her.”

It was more than six lengths back to the fourth-place finisher, 2006 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Lemons Forever. She was followed by Eyes On Eddy and Countess Scala.

Leparoux’s victory aboard Mauralakana gave him 70 wins during the 52-day meet. The 23-year-old native of Chantilly, France, won leading jockey honors during the Churchill Downs spring meet for the second year in a row.

Steve Asmussen earned the leading trainer title, saddling 46 winners to break a record for spring meet victories. The previous record of 43 was established a year ago by Dale Romans, who finished a distant second in this year’s race with 22 victories.

Iowa attorney Maggi Moss earned her first leading owner title at Churchill Downs. Her horses won 18 races during the racing session that started on April 28.

(Chart, Equibase)

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