08/29/2007 12:00AM

Nashoba's Key gears up for big finish


DEL MAR, Calif. - Nashoba's Key, the leading older female in California, ended a late-summer vacation with a half-mile workout in 48.20 seconds at Del Mar on Wednesday, which puts her on course for a fall campaign, trainer Carla Gaines said.

Gaines and owner Warren Williamson are planning a two-race campaign in September and October for Nashoba's Key - the $400,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes over 11/4 miles on turf at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Sept. 29 and the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf over 1 3/8 miles on turf at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27.

Nashoba's Key, 4, unbeaten in six races, has not started since winning the Grade 2 Clement Hirsch Handicap on Del Mar's Polytrack synthetic surface on Aug. 5. The Hirsch was her third consecutive graded stakes win, and pushed her career earnings to $623,460.

After that race, Nashoba's Key was given a brief vacation, Gaines said.

"I wanted to give her a little break," she said. "They need a break now and then."

The ease of Wednesday's workout surprised Gaines, who said Nashoba's Key was essentially breezing. "I didn't want her going that fast," Gaines said. "She's fresh."

There is a chance that Nashoba's Key could start in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff on the main track on Oct. 27 instead of the Filly and Mare Turf, Gaines said.

"I'll take it day by day, but my preference is the grass," Gaines said.

Stute confident in Roman Commander

Last fall, Roman Commander won stakes at Fairplex Park and Hollywood Park and finished third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity, providing owner Kendall Mann and trainer Gary Stute with a late-season highlight to their year.

Roman Commander has not shown that form this year, finishing fifth and ninth in two optional claiming races at Del Mar. Stute, the son of trainer Mel Stute, blames himself, and says that Roman Commander is capable of a much better performance in the second division of Friday's $100,000 El Cajon Stakes.

"I think he'll run huge," Stute said.

Stute says that Roman Commander did not have enough of a foundation in his first two starts of the meeting, his first races since returning from a suspensory injury suffered last winter.

"It took me awhile to figure out the track," Stute said. "I don't think I had him tight enough. The track is so much different in the morning than in the afternoon."

To remedy that, Stute has given Roman Commander lengthy workouts in recent weeks, including one at 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 16. Stute said that Roman Commander had another workout over 1 1/8 miles on Aug.o10, but was officially credited with a one-mile workout.

Stute also starts Frank the Barber in the first division. Frank the Barber is making his fourth start of the meeting. He was second by a nose in an optional claimer Aug. 9.

"I think he'll run well, too," Stute said. "I'm hoping to win both halves. One of them better win. I just got my Porsche out of the shop and I put it on my American Express. I've got two weeks to pay."

Palomar draws 10

Saturday's $250,000 Palomar Handicap for fillies and mares drew 10 entrants, but is expected to have fewer starters.

Trainer Bobby Frankel said earlier this week that he will start either Precious Kitten, the winner of the John Mabee Handicap on Aug. 4, or Price Tag, the winner of the 2006 Matriarch Stakes.

The field also includes Kris' Sis, the winner of the restricted Osunitas Handicap here on July 21.

Shaggy Mane bound for Erie, Pa.

The lure of big prize money at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., has reached California, where trainer Don Chatlos saw an opportunity he could not pass up for the top female sprinter Shaggy Mane. Chatlos said he is sending Shaggy Mane to Presque Isle for the $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes at six furlongs on Sept. 15.

"For $400,000 there's no way to pass that up," Chatlos said at his Del Mar barn. "They have Tapeta at that track, and the races are at night, so if temperature is a factor with these synthetic surfaces, it shouldn't be a problem. Plus, everybody I know says the Tapeta surface is tighter."

Shaggy Mane most recently was second in the Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder to River's Prayer, who subsequently won the Rancho Bernardo Handicap here.

Chatlos said that to get to Presque Isle from Del Mar, Shaggy Mane will be flown to Lexington, Ky., then take an eight-hour van ride the rest of the way.

Surgeries decrease

Remember the old Maytag repairman commercials, where the sad sack lamented the product was so good he had nothing to do? Well, noted surgeon Dr. Wayne McIlwraith said he has had less to do since Del Mar began, but he's not going to complain. McIlwraith operates out of a facility near Los Alamitos.

"The numbers of surgeries I've done have definitely been down since Del Mar began," McIlwraith said. "I've always said that if you could eliminate the need for surgery, that wouldn't be bad."

Flip the Penny: So far, so good

Flip the Penny was winless in seven starts before arriving at Del Mar this summer. Since getting here, though, he has won three straight starts, against maiden claimers and then twice against claimers, most recently for trainer Bill Spawr.

"I had been kind of following him," Spawr said. "He's a good-looking horse, but everybody knows he's got two bowed tendons. We knew that going in before we claimed him. But they've been good and tight so far. I might try him next at Fairplex, see how he likes that. You have to respect his injuries, but so far he's doing well."

Lori Allen, one of the owners of Flip the Penny, said she was first interested in claiming the horse simply because she has a Jack Russell named Penny.

"The Jack Russell's not bowed, though," Spawr said.

additional reporting by Jay Privman