08/31/2006 12:00AM

Charmvictor poised for first '06 win

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Gary Mandella continues to learn more and more about Charmvictor, which is bad news for his rivals in Saturday's $50,000-added China Basin on the Golden Gate Fields turf.

Among the things Mandella has learned is that despite his ability to work well on the dirt in the morning, Charmvictor "couldn't stand up" on the dirt in his lone main-track try.

"I don't think he'll run on the dirt again," Mandella said. "We might try one of these [artificial surfaces] once, but not at the expense of the turf."

Charmvictor, 4, who won the Beau's Eagle at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf as a 3-year-old, comes off the best race of his career. He came from well off the pace in the $137,000 California Dreamin' and rallied for fourth, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths by the winner, El Don, on Aug. 4 at Del Mar. And, according to Mandella, he "didn't have the cleanest trip from the quarter to the eighth pole."

Although he hasn't won since the Beau's Eagle and missed nine months after wrenching an ankle at Del Mar last summer, Charmvictor has been competitive in his Southern California races since returning to the turf.

Charmvictor drew the outside post in the field of six, just outside of Now Victory, who is coming off a victory in the $101,000 Joseph T. Grace at Santa Rosa.

First Rate Event, is also signed up, as is Shadow Raider.

Southern California imports On the Acorn and Cummiskey, an Irish-bred looking for both his first U.S. and turf victory, round out the field.

"I'm not sure there's as much pace here [as the California Dreamin']," said Mandella, whose plan is for Charmvictor is to have him come from the back.

Mandella opted to run Charmvictor in the China Basin rather than a richer Del Mar allowance race.

"We gave up $20,000, but the Del Mar race was 1 1/8 miles," he said. "We don't want to overrace him before Cal Cup."

Shadow Raider drew the rail and will likely take the lead. He set the pace only to lose by a nose to entrymate Adreamisborn in the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap last year.

Now Victory has speed but finished well when held off an honest pace behind Shadow Raider in his Grace victory. Cummiskey should be able to sit close to the pace and try for a first-run trip.