DEL MAR, Calif. -- Balance may lose Sunday's $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar and still leave trainer David Hofmans convinced that she is on course for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.
Hofmans is concerned that Balance is conceding weight and an advantage in distance to Nashoba's Key in the Grade 2 Clement Hirsch Handicap over 1 1/16 miles.
Hofmans thinks Balance is better at 1 1/8 miles than 1 1/16 miles.
Balance, a winner of 6 of 13 starts and $982,491, carries top weight of 122 pounds, two more than Nashoba's Key, who is unbeaten in five starts and has earned $443,460.
"I thought they should have been equal weights," Hofmans said.
The two fillies have met twice this summer and Nashoba's Key outran Balance in two graded stakes at Hollywood Park. They were first and third in the Grade 2 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 3 and first and second in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap on July 7. In both races, Nashoba's Key finished three-quarters of a length in front of Balance.
But Hofmans has a tenative plan for Balance over the next three months that he hopes leads to the stable winning the BC Distaff for the second time in five years. In 2003, the Hofmans-trained Adoration pulled a 40-1 upset in the BC Distaff at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting. Both Adoration and Balance are owned by John and Jerry Amerman.
Hofmans would like to run Balance in the $600,000 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 29 if she runs well Sunday.
Hofmans said he likes the timing of the Beldame in relation to the BC Distaff and he wants Balance to become acclimated to track and climate conditions on the East Coast.
"I want her at Monmouth for at least two weeks," he said. "There's not enough time to bring her back" to California.
Canani has a Del Mar Derby horse
Stoneside, who was second in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat in France last month, worked a half-mile in 50.60 seconds on turf at Del Mar on Thursday, preparing for his U.S. debut in the $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 2.
Now trained by Julio Canani and owned by Marsha Naify, Stoneside won two stakes in France.
On Thursday, Stoneside worked in company with the recent maiden race winner The Big One, starting a few lengths behind that horse and pulling even in the stretch.
Canani was hoping for a faster workout, but said that Stoneside "was very relaxed."
Canani has won the Del Mar Derby three times, most recently in 2004 with Blackdoun, who was co-owned by Naify.
Owner's idea yields win for Atlando
A little racing experience and a suggestion from owner Gary Tanaka helped Atlando pull an upset in Wednesday's $88,935 Cougar II Handicap.
Atlando made his second start after a layoff in the Cougar II, having finished last of five in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap on July 22. Despite the quick turnaround, Atlando ($23.40) thrived over the Cougar II distance of 1 3/8 miles on turf, stalking the pace to early stretch before pulling clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
The victory was Atlando's first win since the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap at Santa Anita in February 2006.
"I was happy he came back to himself," trainer Darrell Vienna said.
Vienna said Tanaka suggested that Atlando start in the Cougar II.
"I wasn't planning on running him back," he said. "I think Gary came up with a good decision."
A 6-year-old gelding, Atlando has won 7 of 21 starts and $407,723 in a career plagued by soft-tissue injuries, Vienna said.
Atlando is expected to start in the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on turf on Aug. 26. The race is expected to draw Toasted and Brave Maestro, who were second and third in the Cougar II.
A.P. Xcellent, fifth as the favorite Wednesday, will be nominated for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19.
McAnally sends two in juvenile sprint
The entry of Huss the King and Milwaukeebrewkaroo have different goals when they debut in Saturday's second race, for 2-year-old maidens at Del Mar.
Huss the King is more of a sprinter and has caught the eye of trainer Ron McAnally.
"The colt looks like he's got the most speed," McAnally said. "The main thing is to keep him calm."
Milwaukeebrewkaroo may not be ideally suited to the race distance of 5 1/2 furlongs.
"He's more of a router," McAnally said.
Huss the King and Milwaukeebrewkaroo are owned by Arnold Zetcher, who paid $120,000 for each colt at the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training.
They are two of the eight entrants in the maiden race, which has five first-time starters.
Of the runners with experience, Good Man Dan may attract the most support. Trained by Doug O'Neill, Good Man Dan was third in a maiden race here on July 18, his third start.
Hofmans starts Sincity Glow, but has guarded expectations.
"I think he wants to go farther, but this is a good starting point," Hofmans said. "He hasn't done anything wrong. He's not real quick, but he wants to run on."
Trainer Brian Korinier, who has a strong record with first-time starters and 2-year-olds, runs Volos, a colt by Hennessy.
"He's not a standout," Koriner said. "He has his days."
O'Neill also starts the first-timer Gone Grand, a Grand Slam colt who has worked well in recent weeks.
Poker tourney to raise money for injured groom
A charity poker tournament will be held Aug. 16 at the Del Mar simulcast facility to aid Noe Garcia, the groom for Lava Man who lost his left arm in an automobile accident July 23.
The tournament has an advance buy-in of $200 and a tournament day buy-in of $250, although space is limited. The tournament begins at 7:30 p.m., with a silent auction of sports memorabilia scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Further information is available at lavamanshero.com.