08/10/2006 12:00AM

Currin hoping Stormello can change his luck

Attima, winning the San Clemente, is a main player in the Del Mar Oaks.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Twice in the last four years, trainer Bill Currin has had a 2-year-old finish in the top three in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes for 2-year-olds at Del Mar. Outta Here was third in 2002, and Bashert was second last year. The race has also been a source of sadness for Currin. The Currin-trained Wetherly was euthanized as a result of injuries suffered in the 2004 running.

The $150,000 Best Pal Stakes on Sunday is on Currin's agenda this year with the promising Stormello, the winner of a maiden race in his second start July 29. Stormello led throughout to win by 3 1/2 lengths under Victor Espinoza. He was timed in 1:10.45 for six furlongs.

"When he switched his lead, he rebroke," Currin said of the stretch run.

Stormello drew post 6 in the Best Pal. The field of eight does not have any stakes winners, but Great Hunter was second in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship at Hollywood Park on July 4.

Stormello, who is owned by Currin and Al Eisman, can lead, though Currin said he is not committed to that strategy.

"With a rider like Victor, he'll make the decision, not me," Currin said. "If the horse breaks, he can make the lead."

Currin said he debated whether to start Stormello, because he was concerned about the short time between the maiden race and the Best Pal, which is run at 6 1/2 furlongs. He is looking toward the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 6.

"It's so close from his last race," Currin said. "Am I right in running him back? Victor didn't have to ask for much [in the win]. He has a good mind and a good attitude. He's more like a 4-year-old colt instead of a 2-year-old colt."

Illness sidelines Nakatani

Jockey Corey Nakatani, second in the standings at Del Mar, took off his mounts Thursday and Friday after being hospitalized because of a suspected virus, according to his agent, Tom Knust.

Nakatani was admitted to Huntington Hospital in Arcadia, Calif., on Wednesday after complaining of illness on Monday and Tuesday, Knust said. Nakatani rode one mount Monday and took off the remainder of his rides that day.

Knust said that Nakatani was being treated with fluids and antibiotics and was undergoing blood tests in an effort to find the source of the virus.

Oaks looks like a hometown race

The $400,000 Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 19 is likely to be dominated by locally based fillies.

Two shippers who were possible for the race, La Mottie from England and Wait a While from New York, are not expected to make the trip.

La Mottie, second in the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot in June, has suffered "a training setback" and will be pointed for the Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup Stakes on Sept. 9, trainer Ben Cecil said.

La Mottie is based in England with trainer Jeremy Noseda, but will be transferred to Cecil after she makes her U.S. debut, Cecil said.

Wait a While, a convincing winner of the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park last month, may stay in New York for the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 19. Trainer Todd Pletcher was not available for comment.

Wait a While was ridden by Garrett Gomez in the American Oaks. His agent, Ron Anderson, said that Gomez does not plan to ride at Del Mar on Aug. 19, but will ride the Pacific Classic program here Aug. 20.

The stakes winners Attima and Foxysox are expected to dominate the Del Mar Oaks. Attima has won the San Clemente and Honeymoon Breeders' Cup handicaps this summer. Foxysox won three stakes earlier in the year, including the Senorita Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Graded stakes next for Polyfirst

Polyfirst will start in her first graded stakes in the United States next month after winning her first stakes in this country in Wednesday's $91,270 Osunitas Handicap at Del Mar.

Ridden by Norberto Arroyo Jr., Polyfirst rallied from fifth to win the Osunitas by 2 1/4 lengths over a strong field. Three Degrees, the winner of the 2005 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap, finished second, a nose in front of Mea Domina, the winner of the Grade 1 Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap in 2005.

Polyfirst ($28) ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:40.46. Trainer Richard Mandella said that Polyfirst will be pointed for the $200,000 Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap, a Grade 2 at 1 1/16 miles on turf Sept. 2.

A winner of four of 15 starts and $214,718 for Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Polyfirst was overly anxious in her earlier races, but has calmed down, Mandella said.

"We're working with her to get her to settle down," he said. "Sometimes, they need a race to get the edge off of them."

* A memorial service for Orvil Hovdey, a former racehorse owner and father of Daily Racing Form executive columnist Jay Hovdey, will be held at 5 p.m. on Saturday at College Lutheran Church in San Diego. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to Tranquility Farm, P.O. Box 210, Tehachapi, CA 93581.