THERE'S A WHOLE LAVA LOVE.Byline: KEVIN MODESTI
ARCADIA - Since strictly speaking it's impossible to be a favorite and an underdog at the same time, only a horse of rare personality can earn the tote-board chalk race after race and maintain the aura of a blue-collar odds-beater.
That's one of the distinctions Lava Man has earned in the six-race winning streak that the 5-year-old brings into a meeting with Giacomo and Brother Derek in Saturday's $500,000 Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita, one of 10 American races worth at least that much to be run this weekend as preps for the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs.
Lava Man will be favored in the 1 1/8-mile Goodwood, the West's major prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic The Breeders' Cup Classic is a Grade 1 Weight for Age thoroughbred horse race for 3 years old and older run at a distance of 1¼ miles (2012 m) on dirt. It is held annually at a different racetrack in the United States or Canada as part of the Breeders' Cup. . This will make five starts in a row the California-bred gelding gelding
castrated male horse. , once a scuffler in the claiming ranks, has been favored at the stakes level. Still, there's the sense that he continues to strive to prove himself.
Some of the sport's most famous underdogs were, in fact, overdogs most of the time. Seabiscuit? He was the public favorite (that is, the heaviest-bet horse) in 25 of his last 27 races on which there was wagering, including a streak of 17 at one point; in fact, he was favored in his first race after arriving in California, though the movie made it seem he came here a wreck. John Henry? Favorite in 32 of his last 38, including streaks of 11 and nine in a row.
Smarty Jones? Favorite in six of his seven races at age 3, even in the Kentucky Derby where he made his reputation for up-by-the-bootstraps pluck.
America loves an underdog -- who knows what Paraguay loves, maybe also an underdog -- and so a racehorse racehorse
refers usually to thoroughbred but may also include standardbred, trotter. of modest origins is allowed to hold onto his log-cabin image. Lava Man is no different, forever the 3 for 15 turf horse claimed for $50,000 in 2004 bylittle-known owners. His handlers don't consider this a slight, more a claim to fame.
``He's kind of everybody's horse,'' Dennis O'Neill, assistant to his brother Doug O'Neill, Lava Man's trainer during the horse's rise, said this week in a conference call with turf writers. ``Anybody could have owned this horse, and we got lucky and got him. He's, you know, John Henry.''
Since winning the Santa Anita Handicap The Santa Anita Handicap is an American Thoroughbred horse race held annually in the late winter at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. It is a Grade I race for horses three years old and up, and is considered the most important race for older horses in North America during in March as the nearly 7-2 second choice toHigh Limit, Lava Man has been favored at 7-10 in the Khaled Stakes, 9-10 in the Whittingham Handicap and 3-5 in the Hollywood Gold Cup The Hollywood Gold Cup is a Grade I stakes race for thoroughbred horses inaugurated in 1938 at Hollywood Park Racetrack in Inglewood, California. It was run as a handicap race until 1997 when it was switched to weight-for-age conditions. at Hollywood Park, and even-money in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, where he became the first horse to sweep Southern California's three major older-horses events.
And in Saturday's sixth race, Lava Man (Corey Nakatani riding) is likely to be a heavy favorite again, the kid from the sticks looking down at six opponents who include a Kentucky Derby winner, Giacomo (Mike Smith), and a Santa Anita Derby The Santa Anita Derby is an American Grade 1 thoroughbred horse race for three-year-olds run each April at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California and carries a purse of $750,000. winner, Brother Derek (Alex Solis). Also in the race: Super Frolic Frolic - A Prolog system in Common Lisp.
ftp://ftp.cs.utah.edu/pub/frolic.tar.Z. (David Cohen), Magnum (Martin Pedroza), Preachinatthebar (Jon Court) and Romeo Plus (Norberto Arroyo).
Lava Man has been assigned a career-high-matching 126 pounds, giving his rivals eight to 15. Giacomo seeks his second victory in seven starts since the 2005 Derby, in what is intended as his second-to-last race before retirement.
Brother Derek tries to improve on fourth-place finishes in the 2006 Derby, the Preakness and a minor stakes at Del Mar.
Adding to the Lava Man's ambiguity -- the favored underdog -- is the paradox that being the strong favorite so often has helped to plant doubt in the minds of handicappers outside California. He's just bullying the weaklings out west, they say.
Thus the Goodwood figures to mark the last time in 2006 that Lava Man is favored.
Also prepping Saturday isBernardini -- the Preakness and Travers winner facing Dylan Thomas, Andromeda's Hero and Wanderin Boy in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup The Jockey Club Gold Cup, established in 1919, is a prestigious thoroughbred flat race open to horses of either gender three-years-old and up. It is typically the main event of the fall meeting at Belmont Park, just as the Belmont Stakes is of the spring meeting and the Travers at Belmont Park -- and if things go as expected on both coasts, Bernardini would be the popular choice over Lava Man in a battle for the Horse of the Year title in the Breeders' Cup Classic in Louisville, Ky.
The Goodwood is one of four stakes of note at Santa Anita on the second weekend of the Oak Tree meet's Breeders' Cup preps. On Saturday's Goodwood undercard un·der·card
The event or events coming before and supporting the main event, as of boxing matches. , Aragorn (Nakatani) goes for his fourth consecutive Grade I or II stakes victory in the $250,000 Oak Tree Mile, trying to hang onto his No. 1 ranking on the official contenders list for the Breeders' Cup Mile; and Pure as Gold (Court) and Bordonaro (Patrick Valenzuela) head the $250,000 Ancient Title Stakes The Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Stakes is an American Thoroughbred horse race run annually in early October as part of the Oak Tree Racing Association meeting at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. , a prep for the Breeders' Cup Sprint The Breeders' Cup Sprint is an American Weight for Age Grade I Thoroughbred horse race for three year olds & up. Run on dirt over a distance of 6 Furlongs (3/4 mile), the race has been held annually since 1984 at a different racetrack in the United States or Canada as part of the . Sunday, Del Mar Futurity The Del Mar Futurity is an American Thoroughbred horse race held annually at Del Mar Racetrack in Del Mar, California. Beginning in the racing season of 2007, this race has been upgraded by the American Graded Stakes Committee from a Grade II event to a Grade I. winner Horse Greeley (Espinoza) tops the $250,000 Norfolk Stakes, the springboard to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile The Breeders' Cup Juvenile is a Thoroughbred horse race for 2-year-old colts and geldings raced on dirt. It is held annually at a different racetrack in the United States or Canada as part of the Breeders' Cup. .
Espinoza will be at Keeneland on Saturday to ride Del Mar Futurity runner-up Great Hunter in the $500,000 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity. Both Horse Greeley and Great Hunter are trained by O'Neill.
OUT OF THE GATE
- Kevin Modesti