01/24/2008 1:00AM

Nashoba's Key looking strong after a break


ARCADIA, Calif. - Not much has changed for Nashoba's Key since last fall.

She remains one of the top older females in the nation, evidenced by her nominations for two Eclipse Awards for 2007 - the nation's outstanding turf female and outstanding older female. And the weather refuses to cooperate with the well-made plans of owner-breeder Warren Williamson and trainer Carla Gaines.

Saturday, Nashoba's Key is scheduled to start in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Santa Anita. Because of persistent rain in Southern California this week, the race is likely to be run on a very soggy turf course.

At least Nashoba's Key has experience in such conditions. Last fall at Monmouth Park, she finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on a soft turf course, her only loss in an eight-race career that includes five stakes wins and earnings of $972,090.

At the Breeders' Cup, Nashoba's Key was beaten two lengths by the champion Lahudood.

"I still believe, in the Breeders' Cup, if she hadn't gotten stuck on the inside she wouldn't have minded the track," Gaines said.

Gaines could prove that theory in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf, which is restricted to California-breds and Florida-breds. Nashoba's Key won her first three starts against California-breds, including the Fran's Valentine Stakes on turf at Hollywood Park last April.

Gaines gave Nashoba's Key a break after the Breeders' Cup, and the 5-year-old has worked well in recent weeks. Gaines was enthused by Nashoba's Key's six-furlong workout in 1:11.60 at Hollywood Park on Jan. 15.

"I'm feeling good about the filly," Gaines said. "She's super. I'm not feeling good about the weather.

"She's training like a gorilla. She worked three-quarters and galloped out a mile in 1:36 and change; that's pretty amazing. She's doing very well."

Nashoba's Key will be a heavy favorite in the Filly and Mare Turf, facing only seven rivals. There is considerable depth from the California-breds in the field.

Somethinaboutlaura, 6, is seeking her seventh stakes win in the last year. A California-bred trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Somethinaboutlaura has drawn the rail and is expected to show speed.

Bai and Bai and Gentle Charmer, mares who ran well on the California Cup program here on Nov. 3, make their first starts of the year.

Bai and Bai, who drew the outside post, was second in the California Cup Matron on the main track. She won the Solana Beach Handicap on turf at Del Mar last August and the Las Madrinas Handicap on dirt at Fairplex Park in September.

Gentle Charmer will be making her first start since winning the California Cup Distaff in a 54-1 upset.

There are four Florida-breds in the field, a group led by Quite a Bride and Snow Cone, the first two finishers of the South Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 3.

Quite a Bride, who has earned $603,881 in her 17-race career, is proven against open company, having won the Grade 3 Mint Julep Handicap at Churchill Downs last June. She has ample speed and could be an early threat to Somethinaboutlaura.

Snow Cone was a game second to Cozzi Capital in the Calder Oaks on a yielding turf course last October, which could be vital experience if conditions are poor on Saturday.