“It was unbelievable,” trainer Doug O’Neill said of Lava Man’s Hollywood Park drill. “He worked a half-mile in :49 4/5. Now I know some would say, ‘What’s the big deal?’ when they see the time. But it really was an unbelievable work. He just kept on going. He galloped out [six furlongs] in 1:14. His regular exercise rider, Tony Romero, was extremely happy with it. We are right on target [for the Khaled].”
The Khaled, 1 1/8-mile grass race, is part of Hollywood Park’s $1.3 million Cal National Gold Rush IX program for California-breds.
“Corey Nakatani will be riding Lava Man in the Khaled,” O’Neill confirmed.
Nakatani has ridden Lava Man in his last 17 races, including a 5 1/4-length victory in the 2006 Khaled when the gelding set a course record of 1:44.26. Nakatani and Lava Man also have collaborated to win the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) the last three years. Native Diver is the only other three-time winner of the Gold Cup, taking it in 1965, 1966 and 1967.
Owned by STD Racing Stable and Jason Wood, Lava Man has won 17 of 43 career starts while earning $5,214,706. The 7-year-old son of Slew City Slew—Li’l Miss Leonard, by Nostalgia’s Star, is the third-leading California-bred earner of all time behind Tiznow ($6,427,830) and Best Pal ($5,668,245).
Lava Man has not raced since finishing sixth in the California Cup Classic last Nov. 3. He was taken out of training following that race and sent to NexStar Ranch in Temecula, Calif. Since returning to O’Neill’s Hollywood Park barn Jan. 26, Lava Man has had six recorded workouts. O’Neill has said one reason he is pleased at how Lava Man is coming up to the Khaled is “he gets so much more out of his daily gallops than an average horse.”