08/22/2007 12:00AM

Lack of pace could hamper Nakaba


DEL MAR, Calif. - Nakaba may need a change of style to win her first stakes in the United States at Del Mar on Friday.

In all of her seven starts in this country, which includes two victories in allowance races, Nakaba has come from well off the pace. But all of the five fillies and mares in Friday's $85,000 California Thoroughbred Trainers and Thoroughbred Owners of California Handicap are closers. The lack of a front-runner concerns trainer Paulo Lobo.

"I like the race, but she's the kind of filly that needs pace," Lobo said. "There is no pace."

Owned by Select Stables One, Nakaba was last of five in the Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap in her last start on July 1 at Hollywood Park. She threw her head at the start, raced as close as third, and finished 4 1/2 lengths behind winner Citronnade.

"The last race she was a little close to the pace," Lobo said. "We knew we were racing against one of the best fillies in California."

Lobo said he is not eager "to change too much" regarding tactics in Friday's race, and will allow jockey Brice Blanc to make strategic decisions. Blanc has ridden Nakaba in her last three starts, including an allowance race win going 1 1/16 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on May 31.

Friday's distance of 1 3/8 miles on turf is not a concern, since Nakaba was second in a Group 1 at 1 1/2 miles on turf in Brazil in December 2005.

"She ran well over a mile and a half in Brazil," Lobo said. "I was expecting more fillies. Everybody comes from off the pace."

The four fillies and mares opposing Nakaba have had mixed form this summer. Imagine won an allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on turf at Del Mar on July 18 and is racing beyond that distance for the first time. She has been first or second in her last three starts.

Sol Mi Fa was fourth in the Osunitas Handicap on July 21, her sixth consecutive loss. She was fifth in the 2006 American Oaks.

Galileo's Star was fifth in an allowance race on Aug. 5, her sixth consecutive loss. Her only win came in a seven-furlong sprint in England in 2005.

River Melody was eighth in an optional claimer on July 29, her seventh straight defeat. She won an allowance race at about 1 1/4 miles on turf in Germany in 2005.