07/24/2007 11:00PM

Romans looks to make impact with small stable


DEL MAR, Calif. - Dale Romans, among the leading trainers on the Kentucky circuit, has sent a stable to Del Mar for the first time this year. Romans will be out to make a quick impression in California this weekend, with a contender in Friday's second race and a filly capable of an upset in Saturday's $150,000 San Clemente Handicap.

In the Grade 2 San Clemente, Romans will start Mostbeautifulstorm, an allowance-class filly making her stakes debut on turf. She will be an outsider in a field of 10 in the San Clemente, which is run over a mile on turf.

Mostbeautifulstorm has won 2 of 9 starts, with both of her victories coming on the Polytrack at Keeneland. She won a seven-furlong allowance race in April and was a fast-closing third in a six-furlong allowance race at Churchill Downs in June.

A switch to turf "should help her," Romans said. "She's coming into her own."

Mostbeautifulstorm finished third in a maiden race on turf at Saratoga last year, her only start on the surface.

"She ran on turf at Saratoga and it wasn't a bad race," Romans said. "I've been meaning to try her back on it."

Romans, 40, sent horses to Saratoga this year, which he has done for many years, and opted to send a smaller stable to Del Mar.

Romans has 11 horses at Del Mar "with three or four more coming," he said.

"I left a couple of stalls open," he said. "If something doesn't go at Saratoga, we'll bring it out here."

He has two well-regarded 2-year-olds at Del Mar - Aidan and Dr. Nick.

Aidan is entered in a maiden special weight race over six furlongs Sunday, having finished third in his debut against maidens at Churchill Downs on June 24. Dr. Nick was second in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs on July 7. He is being pointed for the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 12, Romans said.

Friday, Romans will have the first Del Mar starter of his career when Slam My Heart starts as a contender in the second race, a claimer on turf.

Earlier this year, Romans said his breakup with owner Ken Ramsey last fall was a factor in the decision to send horses to Del Mar. Ramsey races at Saratoga in New York during the summer.

Nashoba's Key eyes Mabee

Nashoba's Key, the unbeaten winner of two graded stakes, is being pointed to the $400,000 John Mabee Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Aug. 4, trainer Carla Gaines said Wednesday.

Gaines also is holding out the option of starting the 4-year-old Nashoba's Key in the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap on Del Mar's synthetic main track surface on Aug. 5.

Gaines and owner Warren Williamson have the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27 as a long-term goal for Nashoba's Key, which makes the Mabee the more viable option.

"I guess I'm looking toward the grass, but it could change," Gaines said. "It seems like a natural progression, but she trains brilliantly on this [main] track."

Gaines said Nashoba's Key's exercise rider told her she likes the Del Mar track better than Hollywood Park.

Nashoba's Key has won all five of her starts and $443,460. At Hollywood Park, she won the Fran's Valentine Stakes for statebreds on turf and two stakes on the synthetic track - the Grade 2 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap and the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap.

If Nashoba's Key runs in the Mabee rather than the Clement Hirsch, Balance may run in the 1o1/16-mile Hirsch, trainer David Hofmans said. Balance finished behind Nashoba's Key in the Milady and Vanity, and Hofmans is not anxious for a third matchup this summer. Balance may skip the Hirsch in favor of the $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Stakes at Monmouth Park Aug. 25, Hofmans said.

On Wednesday, Balance worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds at Del Mar, which equaled the 13th fastest of 52 recorded works at the distance.

"She finished up strong," Hofmans said. "She looks terrific."

Hofmans said Balance's participation in the Hirsch depends on a workout next week.

"We'll come back and work again and make a decision," he said.

Attendance and handle increase

Del Mar showed gains in key business categories through the first week of the seven-week season.

Through Monday, the sixth day of the 43-day meeting, ontrack attendance had increased 3.6 percent, ontrack handle had improved 4.1 percent, and all-sources handle, including simulcast and account wagering, showed growth of 6.3 percent, according to chief financial officer Mike Ernst.

The all-sources handle was $81.6 million, compared to $76.8 million in 2006.

On opening day, track president Joe Harper predicted handle growth of 3 percent for the meeting, a figure that Ernst thinks can be achieved.

"If we can increase 3 percent, I'd be happy," Ernst said. "The work tabs have been strong and it looks like field sizes should be up."

Cohen headed to Philadelphia Park

Jockey David Cohen will relocate from Southern California to Philadelphia Park this weekend, according to his agent, J.R. Pegram.

Cohen, 22, was scheduled to have his final day at Del Mar on Thursday and begin riding at Philadelphia on Monday, Pegram said.

"The money in Philadelphia is phenomenal," Pegram said in explaining the move. "The purses keep getting better and better. I think there are more opportunities on the East Coast than in California."

Cohen is best known as the regular rider of Proud Tower Too, winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita in 2005 and the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai in 2006. Cohen struggled this summer, winning 15 races at Hollywood Park and failing to place in the top 10.

"Last year, we had a hell of a year," Pegram said. "We're hoping he'll go back and become one of the leading riders."