11/09/2006 12:00AM

Nakaba suited to marathon

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Nakaba was dismissed at 12-1 when she won her U.S. debut in an allowance race at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting last month. She will not be such a tasty price when she starts in Saturday's $60,000 Hermosa Beach Handicap at Hollywood Park.

A group stakes winners in Brazil in 2005, Nakaba is well suited to the marathon distance of 1 1/2 miles on turf in the Hermosa Beach, which drew six entrants. The other top contenders include the stakes winner Aubonne, and Naughty Rafaela, a rival of Nakaba's in Brazil.

Nakaba is owned by Select Stable One and trained by Paulo Lobo. In Brazil, Nakaba won at distances ranging from a mile to 1 1/8 miles, and was stakes-placed over 1 1/4 miles and 1 1/2 miles.

At Santa Anita, she rallied from sixth to win an allowance race over 1 1/8 miles on turf by a length.

"I thought she ran great," Lobo said. "Usually, they need a start when they come from South America. Before the Santa Anita race, she worked well. Some horses come here and you have to wait a bit; she didn't miss a beat."

Nakaba has been assigned 116 pounds, two fewer than topweight Aubonne, one of two entrants trained by Neil Drysdale.

Aubonne has one victory in nine starts in the United States, the La Zanzara Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita in January. A stakes winner in France in 2004, she was second and third in two turf stakes over 1 3/8 miles for females at Del Mar this summer.

Owned by Gary Tanaka, Aubonne has not started since finishing third in the CTT and TOC Handicap on Aug. 25.

"I think it will be tough to beat Aubonne," Lobo said. "She has been facing tough horses."

Drysdale also starts Trade Only, a 4-year-old Unbridled filly who is making her stakes debut.

Those fillies and mares must work to beat Naughty Rafaela, who was a troubled third behind Nakaba at Santa Anita on Oct. 12.

Naughty Rafaela was steadied on the final turn and raced in traffic through the stretch and still finished only 1 1/2 lengths behind Nakaba.

The Hermosa Beach Handicap will be the fourth consecutive race in which Naughty Rafaela and Nakaba have met. In the Brazilian Oaks in October 2005, Nakaba was third, while Naughty Rafaela was fifth. Two months later, Naughty Rafaela won a Group 1 race over about 1 1/2 miles, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of Nakaba.