07/07/2007 12:00AM

Nashoba's Key defeats Balance


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - No one can or wants to get near Nashoba's Key around the barn, and no one can get past her on the racetrack. The lean, mean, winning machine remained unbeaten by winning her fifth straight race on Saturday in the $294,000 Vanity Handicap, while earning the initial Grade 1 victory for both herself and her young, sensational rider, Joe Talamo.

Nashoba's Key ($4.20) had to wait patiently while trapped along the rail for the first seven furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile race, but once room developed, Talamo quickly seized the opportunity. Nashoba's Key came through inside, was even with Balance with a furlong to go, and gradually edged clear late to win by three-quarters of a length.

Nashoba's Key was timed in 1:48.83 on the fast main track.

Balance, who had to spot four pounds (122 to 118) to Nashoba's Key, finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Hystericalady, who finished a half-length in front of Ballado's Thunder, who was last after setting a measured early pace.

Nashoba's Key, 4, began her career only on Jan. 13. After winning three races on turf against California-breds, she has now won twice in graded stakes on the Cushion Track surface at Hollywood Park.

"That was scary," said a relieved Carla Gaines, who trains Nashoba's Key for Warren Williamson, who bred and owns the filly, a daughter of Silver Hawk. "Joe did a tremendous job. She was trapped on the rail, trapped on the rail, but I told him just to reserve something for that kick home."

As cooperative as Nashoba's Key is for her rider, she is anything but around the barn.

"She's mean," Gaines said. "She's vicious, like a viper. If you walk by her stall, you could lose an ear. Before her first few races, we used to be able to stick a carrot at her to get her attention, but now she's like, 'Get away from me.'

"The other day, I was at the front of her stall, and she came off the floor on all fours and came at the webbing like she was going to kill me."