Robert Scarborough’s 5-year-old Mauralakana dove through a narrow gap between horses to score trainer Christophe Clement a sixth career victory in the $100,000 The Very One Handicap (gr. IIIT)(VIDEO
) at Gulfstream Park March 8.
The 1 3/8-mile turf event was reduced to 1 1/8 miles after an early morning downpour left a yielding course. Two fillies – Wyne and Dine and Duchess Royale – scratched, but trainers of the others decided to adjust to the change, and a field of nine went postward.
Bumped at the start under jockey Rene Douglas, Mauralakana took back to fourth behind a steady pace set by Edmund Gann’s Eclisse. Helen Groves’ Tejida raced in second through a :25.19 quarter and a half in :49.52, while Archstone flashed up to third before fading after three-quarters in 1:14.
“I had thought that her best distance was a mile-and-a-quarter, so the change in distance was not too big a concern,” Clement said of his runner. “She’s a good filly.”
Turning for home, Eclisse eked out a brief lead on the rail, but Tejida battled up to overtake her in a 1:38.17 mile. They headed down to the wire with Tejida clear by a head – until Mauralakana swung out from behind horses and slid past her in the final 50 yards to post the victory by a neck in 1:49.94. It was another head back to Bee Charmer Inc.’s late-closing Herboriste.
“I wasn’t concerned when I got stuck behind horses,” Douglas said. “I just had to ride my race. I knew the horse in front of me (Eclisse) would hang, because the form has shown that she does that, so I didn’t want to get stuck behind her. I knew that the pace was slow but I wasn’t worried because the horse I was on is very good.”
Mauralakana returned $8.40, $5, and $4. Tejida and jockey Javier Castellano paid $11.60 and $8.20, while Herboriste and Jorge Chavez brought $4.60. J’ray, Eclisse, Cliffrose, Hostess, Archstone, and Lady Tropicana completed the order of finish.
Bred in France by S.A.R.L. Classic Breeding and M. Hassan, Mauralakana is a daughter of Muhtathir out of the Double Bed mare Jimkana. After her first start this year following a sixth-place finish in Santa Anita’s Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT) last Sept., she owns a 7-2-3 record from 21 starts, with earnings of $562,592. She has raced against top turf horses such as Nashoba's Key, Hystericalady, My Typhoon, Precious Kitten, and the great Ouija Board.
“She had a good year last year with (former trainer) Patrick Biancone,” Clement said. “She did what good horses do. We will likely look at the Orchid Handicap (gr. IIIT, March 30) even though it is at a mile-and-a-half. We don’t have much of a choice right now.”
It was the second straight year Clement won the The Very One, after Royal Highness scored in 2007. His previous winners were in 2002 with Moon Queen, 2001 with Innuendo, 1999 with Delilah and 1998 with Shemozzle.