Art Wilson: Lava Man seeks repeat performance

first_imgARCADIA – Trainer Doug O’Neill has been around thoroughbred racing long enough to know you don’t take a horse like Lava Man for granted. The 6-year-old gelding is as consistent as can be, winning eight of his past nine races, and is the greatest claim ever based on money won. Lava Man has banked more than $4 million since being claimed for $50,000 in August 2004 at Del Mar. Few trainers have had the luxury of having even one Lava Man, who won seven consecutive races last year before a seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs cost him a shot at Horse of the Year. But the son of Slew City Slew rebounded from his dull showing in the Classic with a two-length victory in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 27, setting the scene for his attempt to join John Henry and Milwaukee Brew as the only two-time winners of the Grade I Big ‘Cap. Lava Man won last year’s running by three quarters of a length over Magnum and will be shooting for his fourth victory over Santa Anita’s main track in seven tries. He’s won four of seven at the Big ‘Cap distance of a mile and a quarter. “These are moments we live for,” O’Neill said. “These are the moments we work so hard for.” Lava Man, assigned high weight of 124 pounds, drew the No. 7 post for Saturday’s race and will be ridden by regular jockey Corey Nakatani. They’ll be next to second choice Arson Squad, the Strub Stakes winner who drew the No. 8 hole and is 9-2 on the early line. The 4-year-old Brahms gelding will be ridden for the second time by Garrett Gomez and carry second high weight of 117 pounds. The field, from the rail out, includes Awesome Gem, Tyler Baze, 10-1; El Roblar, Richard Migliore, 20-1; Boboman, Alex Solis, 12-1; Ball Four, Julien Leparoux, 15-1; Spring at Last, David Flores, 15-1; Molengao, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Lava Man; Arson Squad; and McCann’s Mojave, Frank Alvarado, 15-1. Molengao comes in off a victory of a head over Ball Four in the Grade II San Antonio Handicap, the final major steppingstone to the Big ‘Cap. Richard Mandella, who has won three Santa Anita Handicaps and in the 1997 running became the only trainer to run 1-2-3, will saddle El Roblar and Boboman, the latter of whom has never raced on dirt, but won the Grade I Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 9. Great Hunter, one of O’Neill’s three Kentucky Derby hopefuls, will meet eight rivals in Saturday’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, formerly the Santa Catalina Stakes, at Santa Anita. Great Hunter, third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, will be making his first start of 2007 and will be ridden again by Nakatani. [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2103 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!center_img “I’m enjoying this,” O’Neill said Wednesday morning at Santa Anita after Lava Man was installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite in a field of nine for Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Handicap. “I know I’ll probably never have another Lava Man in my barn again.” last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>