07/21/2006 11:00PM

'Charm' schooling for stakes

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DEL MAR, Calif. - With wins in half of her six starts, has lived up to her impeccable breeding. One thing missing from her career is a stakes start, which trainer Ron McAnally hopes to achieve in coming months.

Monday at Del Mar, Charm the Giant, who is by Giant's Causeway out of the stakes-winning mare Olympic Charmer, starts from the rail in an optional claimer at a mile on turf. A win could lead to a start in the Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap on Sept. 2.

Owned by McAnally's wife, Debbie, Charm the Giant, 4, has run twice this year, finishing third in an allowance race at Santa Anita in April and second by a nose to Revealed in an allowance race at Hollywood Park in May.

"She's been ready to run for about six or seven weeks," McAnally said. "We race her sparingly, and that's because of a combination of things."

Monday's race has drawn a tough field of seven. The top contenders include Lock and Key, who was

second in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas Handicap at Santa Anita on April 16; Candy Factory, who won the Solana Beach Handicap here last summer; and Polyfirst, who won two allowance races last year but is winless in two starts this year.

Charm the Giant led in her last start, a style that McAnally wants to avoid. He was impressed with the fight she showed through the stretch against Revealed.

"When that other filly came to her, she came back on," he said. "She's got to come from off the pace."

Lasika, the lone filly entered for an $80,000 claiming price, may set the pace, as she has shown speed in the past. Monday's race is her first start since she finished last of nine in the Monrovia Handicap at Santa Anita last December.

Polyfirst could be near the front. Trained by Richard Mandella, she has run in turf sprints since arriving from France in late 2004.

Lock and Key, who placed in a group stakes in Ireland last year, may also be prominent early. She has yet to win in four starts in the United States for trainer Ben Cecil.

A quick pace will help Candy Factory, who may defend her title in the Solana Beach Handicap on Sept. 3. Trainer Dan Hendricks said he thinks she will prefer Del Mar's turf course over the one at Hollywood Park.

"This track seems to have more give, and I think she'll appreciate that," he said.