Headley says he respects Lava Man, but the 73-year-old trainer feels the time is right for Surf Cat to try the turf. The Oak Tree Mile carries an automatic bid to the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.
Headley knows Surf Cat will have plenty to overcome when he takes on America’s leading active money earner.
“Oh, he’s a great horse, no doubt about it,” Headley said of Lava Man, winner of 17 races and $5,209,706. “But I’ve got a great horse, too. They’re going to tangle.”
The 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Sir Cat has made his 13 career starts on either dirt or synthetic surfaces, winning seven times. In his last six starts -- the last five in graded stakes conditions -- Surf Cat has won four times and placed twice. Overall, Surf Cat has earned $682,420.
Headley says the small field shouldn’t enter into play.
“Lady Luck is the factor, not the size of the field,” Headley said. “If it goes according to Hoyle, the best horse wins it.”
Headley said that Surf Cat has been working regularly on turf for the past two months. He went four furlongs at Santa Anita Oct. 3 in :47 flat, dogs up.
"This will be the first time he’s run on grass in a race, but I’ve worked him every Wednesday since Del Mar on the grass," Headley said. "I think a runner can run on anything if he’s ready and has luck.”
Lava Man is a grade I winner on turf -- and just about any other surface horses run on these days -- but the thinking is that he's likely sharpening up for a date in the new Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
Lava Man could use a confidence boost after a sixth-place finish in the Pacific Classic (gr. I). Lava Man, with six wins and four seconds in 14 lifetime starts on grass, remains an enigma outside of California where he is winless in five tries.
“He’s doing really well,” trainer Doug O’Neill said of the 6-year-old California-bred gelding. “He worked really well Saturday at Hollywood Park and we’re all set for Sunday.”
Brazilian-bred 4-year-old Out of Control has raced seven times in this country for trainer Bobby Frankel and T N T Stud. After defeating The Tin Man by a head in the in the 1 1/8-mile American Invitational (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park this summer , he ran second to highly-acclaimed After Market in Del Mar’s Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT). Out of Control faltered in his latest effort at one mile on turf, the Aug. 19 Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT), fading to sixth. Michael Baze handles the bay colt who has earned $337,371 from a career record of 4-3-1 in 10 starts.
Get Funky, winner of the 2006 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT), is on the comeback trail for trainer John Sadler. The 4-year-old Straight Man colt last ran in May when he finished second to the The Tin Man in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) on the Hollywood Park turf.
$250,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT, Race 6, 3 p.m.), 3 & Up (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Surf Cat (KY), 123, Alex O. Solis
2. Lava Man (CA), 123, Corey S. Nakatani
3. Out of Control (BRZ), 123, Michael C. Baze
4. Zann (KY), 123, Aaron T. Gryder
5. Get Funky (FL), 119, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
6. Courtnall (KY), 123, David R. Flores