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Lava Man retired, yet again, Jan 2010

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  • Lava Man retired, yet again, Jan 2010

    It will be - yikes - Brother Derek among others pointed against the hardest working man in California: Lava Man in next Saturday's big race, the Grade 1 $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

    Lava Man has been looking brilliant in 2007 (on top of magnificent 2006) having already the strong win in the Sunshine Millions Turf race on January 27 and then a killer workout on just this past Friday (2/23):

    Lava Man worked six furlongs in 1:12.20 at Hollywood Park on Friday, further strengthening his position as the favorite for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 3.

    The defending champion of the Big Cap, Lava Man's time was the fastest of 20 at the distance. The workout left trainer Doug O'Neill impressed.

    "I think we're on schedule with where we want to be," he said.

    Lava Man worked in company with the maiden Music and Magic, who is also trained by O'Neill. Lava Man started slightly in front, racing on the inside. He covered the first quarter-mile in 12.40 seconds, three furlongs in 37.80, and five furlongs in 1:00.40, according to O'Neill's stopwatch.
    Source: DRF 2-23-07

    Accordingly he was assigned the top weight for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, a race he won in 2006, at 124 lbs.

    An 11-time stakes winner, Lava Man will spot his probable rivals from seven to 10 pounds in the Grade 1 race over 1 1/4 miles.

    "I think he's a deserving highweight," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "Now, he needs to run to it. The pressure is on, but he seems to rise to it. Hopefully, he can do that Saturday."

    Last year, Lava Man carried 120 pounds in the Big Cap. Since then, the 6-year-old Lava Man has won six stakes, including three Grade 1's.

    Lava Man is expected to have nine rivals in the Big Cap, seven of whom are graded stakes winners.

    Arson Squad, the winner of the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on Feb. 3, is closest to Lava Man in the weights, at 117 pounds. He is followed by Awesome Gem, Ball Four, Brother Derek, and Molengao, at 116 pounds; Boboman, McCann's Mojave, and Spring at Last, at 115 pounds; and El Roblar, at 114 pounds

    It should be a wonderful race!!
    Last edited by Glimmerglass; Jan. 5, 2010, 03:29 PM. Reason: forget about the Breeders' Cup and Dubai or anyplace outside of CA; he's back on top in So. Cal; can he repeat in a back to back Pacific Classic victory? Its no longer on dirt and is stretched longer;
  • Original Poster

    Brother Derek is withdrawn; may race again in fall

    From the BloodHorse 2-35-07:

    Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Brother Derek will miss the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) due to a chip in his left ankle.

    “It’s a recurring problem that probably will require four months,” trainer Dan Hendricks said Sunday morning. “It’s not the end of the world. We’ll do a nuclear scan Tuesday.

    “Basically, he’s got a little chip that has to come out and we’re going to turn him out and bring him back for a fall campaign. It’s very minor, but the best thing for the horse is to go at it now, let him recuperate and come back strong as ever.”

    Owned by Canadian oilman Cecil Peacock, Brother Derek has six wins from 16 starts with earnings of $1,593,458. The 4-year-old California-bred son of Benchmark was third in the Strub Stakes (gr. II) in his most recent start on Feb. 3.


    • Original Poster

      Daily Racing Form columnist Jay Hovdey makes "light" of the weak weights assigned in The Big Cap

      Although he points out that John Henry carried 130 lbs in this race in 1982 and Lava Man will tote just 124 lbs, I think the two can still be somewhat perfectly fine. The purpose of the weights as I've always understood their role were to make the field technically equal - the more superior the horse, the more weight. The point isn't to protect the record time of the race.

      It just is more reflective of today that a horse capable of carrying 130 lbs and "equally" competitive to one carrying 117 lbs is exceedingly rare ...

      DRF 2-26-07 "A storied race hardly living up to its name"

      For instance, in 1982 the Santa Anita Handicap was still what could be fairly referred to as a "handicap," with all the associated historical implications, not to mention a 17-pound spread between the top and the bottom. Five horses carried more than 120 pounds. Defending champion John Henry carried 130. Providential II, winner of the 1981 Washington D.C. International, carried 127. The French horse Perrault, making his first start on dirt, carried 126. Valets were careful when they lifted the saddles.

      With more than 70,000 in the stands, the race came down to a furious duel between John Henry, under Bill Shoemaker, and Perrault, with Laffit Pincay. Perrault won by a nose, but he drifted out enough for the stewards to justify a disqualification. The crowd went wild.

      Now compare the weights of 1982 to the leading names pointing for Saturday's 70th running of the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap. Lava Man, the defending champ, is assigned 124 pounds. Strub Stakes winner Arson Squad carries 117 pounds, while San Antonio Handicap winner Molengao carries 116.

      "I guess they got it right," said Doug O'Neill, trainer of Lava Man, which of course means they got it wrong. No racing secretary worth his stall space wants to hear compliments on weight assignments from trainers, lest they be haunted for the remainder of their days by the ghost of Walter Vosburgh.


      • Original Poster

        The best comment I've seen in eons:

        The 9-2 second choice is Arson Squad, who won for the fourth time in seven starts at Santa Anita when taking the Strub on Feb. 3. Trained by Bruce Headley for owners Mace and Samantha Siegel's Jay Em Ess Stable, Arson Squad, a 4-year-old Brahms gelding, will be ridden by Garrett Gomez as he tries the Big 'Cap distance for the first time.

        The Pennsylvania-bred will also carry second high-weight of 117 pounds, and his trainer thought the assignment to Lava Man was generous.

        "It's not enough," Headley told the Daily Racing Form's Brad Free in reference to the spread in weights. "Lava Man at 124 is a gift. The race should be called the Santa Anita Gift Shop."

        LA Times March 1, 2007 "Lava Man is Santa Anita Handicap favorite"

        From the inside out, the Santa Anita Handicap field includes Awesome Gem, El Roblar, Boboman, who will be making his first start on dirt, Ball Four, Spring At Last, who is also trained by O'Neill, Molengao, Lava Man, Arson Squad and McCann's Mojave.


        • #5
          thats an awesome quote!
          Common Sense and Turn Signals...try 'em out sometime


          • #6
            I love Lava Man, however, his last race was not overly impressive and he'll have some work to do on Saturday.

            If he wins, he'll be just the 3rd horse in history to win consecutive editions of the race.
            It's a uterus, not a clown car. - Sayyedati


            • Original Poster

              A modern era John Henry or not?

              The six-year-old Slew City Slew gelding was unbeatable in California last year regardless of surface or competition. He won six graded stakes, including Grade 1 races on both turf and dirt. His success has led to lofty comparisons, including John Henry, also a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt and a repeat winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in 1981 and ‘82.

              Defending Big ‘Cap winner Lava Man can duplicate the latter feat with a win on Saturday.

              “His versatility is truly amazing,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “I’m honored that he is even talked about in the same sentence with the likes of John Henry.”
              Of course there are those who say "he's nothing special" (?!?) ...

              Opposing trainer Steve Specht had no reservations about sending out Grade 2 winner McCann’s Mojave to face Lava Man. McCann’s Mojave enters off a two-length victory in the $1-million Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes at Gulfstream Park on January 27.

              “You can’t take anything away from Lava Man,” Specht said. “He’s a good horse, but he’s no special horse, in my opinion. He’s not a horse like Secretariat or Spectacular Bid, horses that were so monstrous. He’s not in that league. He’s beaten some of the same horses that we’ve beaten.

              “I don’t think he’s that big of a cinch in the race. I think we have a chance of beating him if we get a good trip. It’s worth taking a shot.”
              I think folks have to give credit where credit is due. A $50k claimer who has made more money then any other claimer in history and his bankroll - and victory tally - just gets fatter by the month. Once, not so long ago, he was just another horse fighting it out for $12,500 and today he's going for another million dollar win. Thankfully horses don't read the newspaper or the internet!

              TB Times 3-1-07 "California standout Lava Man tabbed heavy favorite for Santa Anita Handicap"


              • Original Poster

                more John Henry memories with Lava Man's quest

                *IF* Lava Man wins on Saturday in the 'Big Cap' he will actually surpass one record of John Henry - 10 dirt victories vs. 9 for John:

                Orange County Register 3-2-07 "Chasing the legacy of John Henry"


                Lava Man is an old gelding of modest pedigree who once was a claiming horse and now wins major races and attracts crowds.

                In those respects, he is much like John Henry, whose achievement of two consecutive victories in the Santa Anita Handicap he is trying to match Saturday.

                Twenty-five years after his second Big 'Cap score in 1982, John Henry's legend continues to grow as he nears his 32nd birthday in Lexington, Ky., near his place of birth.

                As notable as his accomplishments are, Lava Man still has much to achieve if he is to join John Henry in the Racing Hall of Fame.

                But if the 6-year-old wins Saturday, he will surpass John Henry in one respect.

                A second triumph for Lava Man in the 11/4-mile Big 'Cap would be his 10th dirt victory.

                John Henry, who won 30 races in 50 starts on turf, won nine times on dirt.

                "He was a top horse on dirt, but a machine on the grass, just skimming over the course," said Lewis Cenicola, who worked John Henry for trainer Ron McAnally and has operated a stable since 1987.

                The last of John Henry's dirt-track victories came in the 1982 Big 'Cap. He won nine more times, all on grass, in an 83-race career, which ended as a 9-year-old in 1984. He retired as the leading money-winning thoroughbred.

                "To think we could actually beat John Henry in anything is unbelievable," Lava Man trainer Doug O'Neill said. "He's one of those horses who turned me on to racing in the first place."

                O'Neill was almost 14 when his family took him to Santa Anita for the 1982 Big 'Cap.
                As Lava Man tries Saturday to become the third two-time Big 'Cap winner (Milwaukee Brew won in 2002-03), Santa Anita will pay tribute to John Henry, who won 15 stakes races at the track.

                "He knows he's the king around here," said Cathy Roby, John Henry's main caretaker since he took up residence at the Kentucky Horse Park more than 20 years ago.

                John Henry, a diminutive 15.1 hands high but with a massive girth, had a persona like nails and would try to bite or otherwise abuse his handlers.

                Age hasn't mellowed him, nor has major surgery for colic five years ago . Doctors removed 18 inches of his intestines.

                "If he wasn't who he is, the surgery probably wouldn't have been tried," Roby said. "He was already 27, and we didn't know if he could recover from the anesthetic and the procedure.

                "But a week later he was recovering, and in two months he was back to his ornery self. He's now the equivalent of a 104-year-old man, but I consider it a good day when he doesn't try to kill me. If he's too quiet, we know there's something wrong with him."

                John Henry has arthritis in his ankles, but he sees, hears and eats well and spends most of his time outdoors.

                "He has an 18 by 18 stall but doesn't like to come in because that's where he gets his medicine," Roby said.


                • Original Poster

                  Regarding plans and expectations ...

                  O'Neill considers Ball Four and McCann's Mojave, the winner of the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27, to be Lava Man's biggest threats.

                  Ball Four and McCann's Mojave should be near the front, and O'Neill is hoping the pace is not too quick.

                  "We've had most of our luck by aggressively leaving the gate, getting position, and being aggressive in the last three to 3 1/2 furlongs," O'Neill said. "My biggest concern is Ball Four and McCann's Mojave. They'll be a major factor early in the race."

                  O'Neill is worried that a quick pace, such as six furlongs in less than 1:11, could be a problem for Lava Man. Corey Nakatani, who has ridden Lava Man to eight stakes wins since the start of 2006, has the mount.

                  "If they're going in 1:09 and 4 and Corey thinks they're going in 1:11, that could do us in," O'Neill said. "You couldn't ask for a better big-time rider. Hopefully, I'm saying that on Saturday night."
                  Here are PP for the SA Grade 1 Handicap (or "Gift Shop") per rivals

                  What will will be a brilliant day of racing between several key matches at Gulfstream and also Santa Anita; the "Big Cap" goes off as the 10th race at SA at 5:02 PST

                  Good luck, Lava Man, I'm rooting for you!!


                  • #10
                    A little over 20 minutes to post! Second choice Arson Squad scratched which means it's Lava Man vs. a bunch of longshots getting 8-10 pounds from him.

                    I'm pretty nervous but excited. Go Lava!!!
                    It's a uterus, not a clown car. - Sayyedati


                    • #11
                      Too easy for Lava Man, he must get tired of beating up those Cali horses. He almost looked disinterested at the top of the stretch, Nakatani had to get after him.
                      Not much of a handicap though, they should make it a WFA race.


                      • #12
                        I do love this horse!

                        Nowhere else to run for a million, Drumbiggle. He scared 'em off.
                        It's a uterus, not a clown car. - Sayyedati


                        • #13
                          Well true, he can only run against who shows up. I heard talk that he might go to Dubai and run on grass over there in the Duty Free. That seems like a failry open race this year, he could be in with a shot.
                          Or I suppose they could just stay in California collecting win checks... that horse is like a bottomless ATM machine out there.


                          • Original Poster

                            Originally posted by Drvmb1ggl3 View Post
                            ... that horse is like a bottomless ATM machine out there.
                            Perhaps he should be given the nickname of "cha-ching"

                            Agreed that until East Coast runners want a piece of those big checks California wants to write to Lava Man he'll just keep banking more dough-ray-me!


                            • Original Poster

                              Not quite the 70,000+ fans that John Henry attracted to Santa Anita 25-yrs ago and certainly not carrying the 130-lbs her did but still ....

                              Lava Man became the third horse to win consecutive runnings of the Big Cap, joining John Henry (1981-82) and Milwaukee Brew (2002-03). A winner of 16 of 37 starts and $4,679,706, Lava Man returned to the winner's circle to a rousing ovation from the on-track crowd of 43,024. He is owned by the Kenly family's STD Racing and Jason Wood, who claimed him for $50,000 in August 2004. Lava Man has won 11 stakes in his last 12 starts on this circuit.


                              • Original Poster

                                Who thinks that Lava Man's next step should be:

                                1 - Ship overseas and go for the potentially huge payday with the $5-million Dubai Duty Free (Gr 1)

                                (likely facing in the Dubai Duty Free) 2006 American turf champion Miesque’s Approval, three-time Grade 1 winner and championship finalist English Channel, Japanese champion Daiwa Major, and French highweight and Group 1 winner Stormy River.

                                2 - Know that he dominates California, seemingly doesn't like to ship out of the region, and he almost could be certain of a win in the the Grade 1 $750k Hollywood Gold Cup (in Jul) or Grade 1 $1 Million Pacific Classic (Aug).

                                It is almost a guarantee that if he goes to Dubai he'll be unable to recover in time for the Hollywood Gold Cup and even being fit for the Pacific Classic seems exceptionally doubtful.

                                I think they should stay in the States and continue to plug away - win, lose or draw. Going overseas may seem like the final chapter in the fairtail saga with great hopes of him being John Henry, but I just don't see it.



                                • #17
                                  If he belonged to me...

                                  Definitely the Pacific Classic AND the Gold Cup!

                                  I would love love LOVE to see him go to Dubai, but as far as risk-taking, I would probably keep him in the States for easier money without losing time by shipping etc.


                                  • #18
                                    I would keep him in California. . .
                                    A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton


                                    • #19
                                      Dubai, no contest.
                                      There's no reason he can't run there and still win the Holly GC, it's in July for godsakes. Last year Ouija Board ran in Dubai, then went to Hong Kong in April for the QEII Cup, then was back in England at the start of June to run a good 2nd to Shirrocco in the Cornoation at Epsom, then she went to Ascot for the Royal meeting in late June and beat Electrocutionist and David Junior (who were 2 of the top ranked horses in the world at the time) in the Prince of Wales.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Originally posted by Drvmb1ggl3 View Post
                                        There's no reason he can't run there and still win the Holly GC, it's in July for godsakes. Last year Ouija Board ran in Dubai, then went to Hong Kong in April for the QEII Cup, then was back in England ....
                                        Agreed that Ouija Board was one heck of a shipper with versatility. However Lava Man's connections do not suggest they are as flexible.

                                        DRF 3-6-07 Lava Man's next on the road"

                                        "It will come down to how the race is coming up and how the horse is doing," O'Neill said. "It's so much money."

                                        But the trip could take its toll. If Lava Man were to race in Dubai, he may not be able to make the Hollywood Gold Cup on June 30 and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August, races he won last year.

                                        Lava Man is owned by Kenly family's STD Racing and Jason Wood. Steve Kenly, for one, is enthused about the trip to Dubai, but said: "Let's let the horse tell us. It's possible it doesn't knock him out for six months."
                                        What is amazing is that if his next race isn't Dubai it will be Churchill Downs, on turf, in the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 5. I just don't see the logic there as he's never been a fan of CD.

                                        Per the DRF article Lava Man will never again race on dirt. He will be exclusively raced on synthetic surfaces or turf.