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BAILEY BOWS OUT IN PAIN JOCKEY KICKED BY HIS FINAL MOUNT.

Byline: Kevin Modesti Staff Writer

ARCADIA - Jerry Bailey's retirement party got off to a rough start Saturday at Gulfstream Park near Miami, beginning when the jockey's final horse kicked him in the hip in the saddling paddock.

``If I weren't in so much pain going into the gate, I probably would have broken down (and cried),'' Bailey said after the last race of his Hall of Fame career, a second-place finish aboard Silver Tree in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf. ``The crowd has been beautiful. I just hope more of them bet to place than to win.''

Lava Man's welcome-back party went a little better half an hour later at Santa Anita.

After winning the Hollywood Gold Cup by a record 8 3/4 lengths last summer, Lava Man had gone badly off form, getting vanned off the track following a third-place finish in the Pacific Classic and then losing by a combined 62 lengths in races in New York and Tokyo.

``If I wasn't connected with him, I would have been the first to say this horse had lost it,'' trainer Doug O'Neill said.

But after a two-month vacation that apparently did wonders for his injured left forefoot and shaky nerves, Lava Man came back to win the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic with Corey Nakatani in front of a surprisingly large crowd of 32,116.

Lava Man's performance capped a strong day for California-bred horses in the Sunshine Millions, whose $3.55 million in purses drew big fields of Cal-breds and Florida-breds for an eight-race card split between Santa Anita and Gulfstream, the major winter tracks owned by Magna Entertainment.

Cal-breds Moscow Burning (Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf) and Da Stoops (Sunshine Millions Dash) won races at Santa Anita, and Cal-breds Bordonaro (Sunshine Millions Sprint) and House of Fortune (Sunshine Millions Distaff) won at Gulfstream. Florida-bred Hot Storm (Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint) won at Santa Anita, and Florida-breds Miesque's Approval (Sunshine Millions Turf) and Joint Effort (Sunshine Millions Oaks) won at Gulfstream.

Miesque Approval's $99.60 payoff for a $2 win bet broke the general formfulness of the afternoon.

In the track-and-field-style points battle based on 1-2-3 finishes, Florida edged California 37-35 in the West Coast's best showing in three Sunshine Millions. But if you kept score with purse earnings, California carried the day.

Patrick Valenzuela rode Bordonaro and House of Fortune. David Flores had Moscow Burning and Hot Storm. Bailey's other mount in the Sunshine Millions races, Thor's Echo in the Sprint, finished fourth after leading briefly.

Bailey, 48, heads to the TV booth, having won 5,895 races, 15th on the all-time list.

The 5-year-old Lava Man keeps racing, with the March 4 Santa Anita Handicap marked on O'Neill's calendar.

``(Saturday) we had a healthy horse, with a healthy foot. He was relaxed in the paddock,'' said O'Neill, best known these days for his work with early Kentucky Derby favorite Stevie Wonderboy. ``He ran an incredible race.''

The victory, the eighth in a 28-race career, sent the gelding's earnings past $1.5 million, the vast majority of that since he was claimed for $50,000 in 2004 by owners Steve and David Kenley of Phoenix and Jason Wood of Rancho Santa Margarita.

Lava Man ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.98, about two seconds slower than his victory in the Californian at Hollywood Park last summer. He rallied from fourth, taking advantage of a killer pace set by Proud Tower Too and Trickey Trevor and then leading the come-from-behinders home.

Lava Man won by 2 1/4 lengths over Whos Crying Now and 3 3/4 over Texcess as 2005 Santa Anita Derby winner Buzzards Bay finished fourth.

The winner returned $7.80.

Kevin Modesti, (818) 713-3616

heymodesti(at)aol.com

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Photo:

JERRY BAILEY

Finishes with 5,895 victories, 15th on all-time list
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 29, 2006
Words:645
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