07/09/2007 12:00AM

Sky looks the limit for Nashoba's Key


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Carla Gaines sat in her office on the Hollywood Park backstretch on Sunday, contemplating the future of Nashoba's Key, the top horse in her barn.

Two months ago, Nashoba's Key did not have that distinction, but her quick rise to the top of the California older female division during the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting has led Gaines to set lofty goals.

Saturday, Nashoba's Key won her second consecutive graded stakes and remained undefeated after five starts with a victory in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

The options are fairly clear. If Nashoba's Key continues to excel, she will start in a $2 million race at the Breeders' Cup Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park. Whether she starts in the Filly and Mare Turf over 1 3/8 miles or the $2 million Distaff over 1o1/8 miles on the main track will be determined. Nashoba's Key has run on turf and Cushion Track, and the Distaff will be run over a conventional dirt surface.

In either race, Gaines knows that Nashoba's Key will face a tough group. If the races were run now, Rags to Riches would be heavily favored in the Distaff and Citronnade would be a leading American contender in the Filly and Mare Turf.

"I guess that's what you do when you get to this level," Gaines said. "You have to run against the best."

Gaines said she is considering one of three races at the Del Mar meeting for Nashoba's Key's next start - the $400,000 John Mabee Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Aug. 4, the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap over 1o1/16 miles on the newly installed Polytrack on Aug. 5, or the $250,000 Palomar Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf on Sept. 1.

Gaines envisions giving Nashoba's Key one start in the fall before the Breeders' Cup - in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on turf at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

Owned and bred by Warren Williamson, Nashoba's Key won her second graded stakes in the Vanity. Earlier at this meeting, she was the impressive winner of the Grade 2 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap.

In the Vanity, Nashoba's Key raced in traffic on the backstretch before contending for the lead with a move along the rail on the final turn. She held off a determined rally from Balance to win by three-quarters of a length under apprentice jockey Joe Talamo.

"Joe said it took a while for her to get her momentum because he had to keep her guzzled," Gaines said. "He said she was only doing what she had to do."

Hirsch has strong potential

The top race of the Del Mar meeting for fillies and mares, the Clement Hirsch may be a destination for Price Tag, the third-place finisher in the $1 million CashCall Mile on Friday night, and Somethinaboutlaura, who won the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap the same night.

A start in the Clement Hirsch would be Price Tag's first appearance on any surface but grass. A winner of 4 of 13 starts and $689,737, Price Tag has run in France and the United States. She has trained primarily on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track synthetic surface since arriving in this country last fall.

Price Tag was beaten 1 1/4 lengths in the CashCall Mile after racing just behind the leaders for the first six furlongs.

"She was too close," said trainer Bobby Frankel.

Lady of Venice won the CashCall Mile with a remarkable rally that carried her from eighth to first through the stretch.

Somethinaboutlaura won her fourth consecutive stakes in the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap over seven furlongs. In the Clement Hirsch, she would attempt to win her first graded stakes beyond seven furlongs on the main track.

Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Somethinaboutlaura has won stakes on turf and the main track throughout California.

"We've been so lucky that she does everything we've asked her to do," Hollendorfer said.

Two get in works for Swaps

Tiago, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby in April, and Desert Code, the winner of the Affirmed Handicap last month, worked on Sunday in advance of Saturday's $350,000 Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Tiago will be favored in the Grade 2 Swaps, which is run over 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Trained by John Shirreffs, Tiago breezed six furlongs in 1:13.60, which equaled the second-fastest of 21 works at the distance.

Tiago finished third in the Belmont Stakes on June 9 in his last start.

Desert Code has never run 1 1/8 miles, but trainer David Hofmans said he wants to take a chance in a longer race instead of waiting for the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf for 3-year-olds on Aug. 11.

Expected to set the pace in the Swaps, Desert Code worked six furlongs in 1:15.40 on Sunday. Hofmans said he wanted to give Desert Code a slow workout to teach the colt to conserve energy.

Desert Code may not have much company on the lead in the Swaps. The race has seven probable starters, including Albertus Maximus, Augment, Awesome Gambler, Souvenir Slew, and Time to Get Even.

The Swaps is part of the final weekend of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, which ends on Sunday.

Biancone fined

Biancone was fined $1,500 by Hollywood Park stewards on Saturday for failing to designate at the time of entry that Lady of Venice would be treated with Lasix, the stewards said.

Biancone's stable is under investigation in Kentucky. His Kentucky barn was searched on June 22 by Kentucky investigators after one of his runners tested positive for two banned substances. Cobra venom, a substance that can be used as a painkiller, was reportedly found in the barn.

Last January, Iron Butterfly, trained by Biancone, tested positive for the bronchodilator salmeterol after a race at Santa Anita.

Hearings are pending in both cases.