03/18/2008 11:00PM

Nashoba's Key getting a rest


ARCADIA, Calif. - The queen of the West Coast distaff division is officially on vacation, and with Nashoba's Key out of training for 60 days, the division is temporarily up for grabs. Trainer Carla Gaines and owner Warren Williamson have made no specific plans for Nashoba's Key other than to declare now as the time for a break after Nashoba's Key's victory March 9 in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap.

"She hasn't had a day off the track since her first start" on Jan. 13, 2007, Gaines said, explaining the decision to give Nashoba's Key a rest. "Any horse that's doing well, it's tempting to keep going and going, but I want to have a horse that has had some time off and is ready to strike at the Breeders' Cup."

A 5-year-old mare with 8 wins from 10 starts, Nashoba's Key won 7 of 8 starts last year, but Gaines suggested she will have fewer starts in 2008, possibly only five. She lost her first start this year before winning the Santa Margarita.

"The Breeders' Cup is late October, and I'd like to have a couple prep races before that," Gaines said. "If I give her 60 days, it's going to take me 60 to 90 days to get her back [because] she's a distance horse. So you're looking at four or five months."

Nashoba's Key could return during the summer meet at Del Mar, where she won the Grade 2 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap last summer. The decision to give Nashoba's Key a break means that she will skip three Hollywood Park stakes she won last summer - the Fran's Valentine for California-breds, the Grade 2 Milady, and Grade 1 Vanity.

'Mojave' targets Sensational Star

Northern California-based trainer Steve Specht admits he was frustrated after the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Sprint last Saturday, and not because a horse he used to train - Bonfante - won the race. Rather, Specht is convinced that the Bay Meadows Sprint would have fallen right into the lap of the best horse he currently trains.

"I was kind of sick I didn't nominate McCann's Mojave," Specht said Tuesday, while driving from Golden Gate to Santa Anita. "I used to train Bonfante, and I don't think [he's as good] as McCann."

Specht said McCann's Mojave will run in the $125,000 Sensational Star Handicap, a 6 1/2-furlong turf race on April 4 at Santa Anita.

McCann's Mojave, owned by Santa Anita publicity director Mike Willman, will be trying to win the Sensational Star for the second time. He scored his first stakes win in 2004 in the Sensational Star. An 8-year-old horse, McCann's Mojave has won 11 races and $1.3 million from 32 starts.

Fast work for Golden Doc A

Golden Doc A, winner of the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes and runner-up in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, smoked a half-mile Tuesday in 46.20 seconds, the fastest of 29 half-mile works at Santa Anita. Trainer Barry Abrams said the filly's next start will be on the road, April 10 at Keeneland in the Grade 2 Stonerside Beaumont at seven furlongs.

"If we can win there, we might even try the Kentucky Oaks," Abrams said.

Although the 1 1/8-mile Oaks is beyond her best distance, Golden Doc A continues to thrive. She began her career last July and has won 3 races and $405,356 from 11 starts.

Strong jockey-trainer team

Abrams and jockey Chantal Sutherland continue to hold a hot hand this winter at Santa Anita. In the $139,000 Irish O'Brien Stakes on Monday, Sutherland won her first Santa Anita stakes with Abrams-trained Lightmyfirebaby ($19.20).

"She's unbelievable," Abrams said of Sutherland.

Bettors apparently are in disbelief, also. Sutherland, who returns April 8 to Woodbine, has won 12 races from 77 mounts this winter; the lowest win payoff was $11.20. Five of Sutherland's 12 winners have been on Abrams trainees.

I Catherine heads 2-year-old sprint

There are not many secrets in quarter-mile sprints for 2-year-olds during the Santa Anita meet. Most of the rocket ships have shown their stuff in the morning and are bet accordingly. That should be the case again this year, when the first 2-year-old race of the season is run Thursday with a clear-cut favorite.

Mel Stute trains I Catherine, one of nine California-bred fillies in race 1.

"She does have quite a bit of speed, and she's by Swiss Yodeler," Stute said.

The message is clear. I Catherine and jockey Martin Pedroza are the ones to catch.

"She's ordinary looking, but she does have some gas," Stute said.

I Catherine arrived from Florida about two weeks ago "practically ready to run," Stute said.

Her main rival is Dulce Maria, trained by Wesley Ward and assistant Blake Heap. The past five years, Ward is 7 for 12 with debut 2-year-olds at Santa Anita. Dulce Maria is barely eligible to run. Santa Anita rules state horses must be a full 2 years old at the time of entry. Dulce Maria was foaled March 17, 2006. Entries for the Thursday race were taken Monday, March 17.

More options for Celtic Dreamin

Is there anything Celtic Dreamin cannot do? The gelding's neck victory Sunday in the $109,000 Crystal Water Handicap at a mile on turf opens up a whole new world. It was his first start on grass, and his sixth win from 11 starts.

"Now, we have options," trainer Rafael Becerra said, adding "it will work out perfect for the Gold Rush."

Becerra will point Celtic Dreamin to the $150,000 Khaled Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf, part of the Hollywood Gold Rush program on April 27 at Hollywood Park. The win also validated Becerra's opinion that Celtic Dreamin's last-place finish two weeks earlier in the Santa Anita Handicap was a fluke.

"I don't like to run back in two weeks, especially with this kind of horse, but it worked out perfect," Becerra said.

Celtic Dreamin, claimed by Becerra and owner K.K. Sangara from his debut for $40,000 last April, has earned $600,543. Alex Solis rode Celtic Dreamin ($7.20) to the win over Mr. Wolverine.