Lava Man Starts New Year in 'Millions Turf

Lava Man Starts New Year in 'Millions Turf
Photo: Benoit
Last year's Sunshine Millions Classic winner tries his luck in Saturday's SM Turf.
(from Santa Anita report)
Lava Man, the most prosperous claim in racing history, turns his attention back to grass racing on Saturday when the defending Sunshine Millions Classic champion lends his star power to the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf event at Santa Anita.

The fifth Sunshine Millions, the series of eight races worth $3.6 million that matches California and Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park as well as at Santa Anita, is the sport’s richest day of state-bred racing. In addition to the 2007 debut of Lava Man, Santa Anita’s four-race portion of the Sunshine Millions includes a showdown between grade I winners Bordonaro and Proud Tower Too in the $300,000 Sprint; Take D’Tour, a winner of six of her last nine starts including Belmont Park’s Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I), spearheading the $500,000 Distaff, and the $250,000 Oaks at six furlongs for 3-year-old fillies.

NBC will televise the 2007 Sunshine Millions from 4 to 6 p.m. ET.

At the age of 6, Lava Man --- who has earned a record $3,706,103 since being claimed for $50,000 by STD Racing Stable and Jason Wood at Del Mar two summers ago --- might find turf to be his preferred surface while furthering a career that has been likened to that of the legendary John Henry.

Trainer Doug O’Neill’s California-bred son of Slew City Slew will face 11 challengers in the 1 1/8-mile event, presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino. It is the richest turf race of Lava Man’s career. While winning seven successive stakes races last year beginning with the Sunshine Millions Classic, he captured Hollywood Park’s $300,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT), his most lucrative grass victory to date.

Lava Man has posted a solid career record in his 11 starts on grass: 5-3-0. O’Neill is not committed to a strict grass future for the gelding, who last year swept Southern California’s elite main track races for older horses: the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) and Del Mar’s Pacific Classic (gr. I). “Right now, the priority is for grass races,” said O’Neill, “but that could change.”

The Turf’s winning purse of $275,000 would send Lava Man’s lifetime bankroll over $4 million. He enters the race with a 14-7-3 record in 35 starts. Lava Man’s unbeaten streak of 2006 unraveled when he faded to seventh behind Invasor in the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I). Regular rider Corey Nakatani retains the mount on Lava Man, who drew post No. 11. His 122-pound weight assignment is the same as his principal rivals.

Lava Man’s competition in the Turf includes Florida shippers Go Between, winner of Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) last July, and Revved Up, a 9-year-old gray millionaire who has won his last three starts, including the Sycamore Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland in October.

The Sunshine Millions Sprint will send Proud Tower Too, who defeated eventual TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) champion Thor’s Echo twice last year before hitting the sidelines, against Bordonaro, fourth in the BC Sprint following 9 victories in his 11 previous starts. Although both are California based and bred, the two crack sprinters have never met.

Proud Tower Too prepared for the Sunshine Millions Sprint by running a close third in Santa Anita’s El Conejo Handicap (gr. III) on New Year’s Day, his comeback race after defeating Thor’s Echo by 1 ¼ lengths in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) last March 25 in the United Arab Emirates.

Bordonaro defeated Thor’s Echo by one length as the odds-on favorite in Oak Tree’s Ancient Title Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. I) last October. Trainer Bill Spawr named Richard Migliore to replace injured Patrick Valenzuela aboard Bordonaro. The 6-year-old gelding, owned by Fred Carrillo and Daniel Cassella, has earned $750,794 from 9 wins in 13 starts.

Proud Tower Too, a 5-year-old homebred owned by Tricar Stable Inc., shows earnings of $1,645,572 from a record of 7-3-2 in 20 starts. David Cohen, who has been aboard for his last six starts, has the riding call in the six-furlong event. Bordonaro, No. 7, and Proud Tower Too, No. 8, drew side-by-side in the field of nine. Each carries 122 pounds.

The connections of Take D’Tour had been considering taking a crack at open company in the Classic following the 6-year-old mare’s dazzling 14-length victory in Calder’s Stage Door Betty Handicap (gr. III) on Dec. 30, but have settled on the safer option in the Sunshine Millions Distaff.

It will mark the first West Coast appearance for the Florida-bred daughter of Tour d’Or, whose 9-6-0 career record in 21 starts has earned $652,740 for owner Alice Muller. With Eibar Coa in the saddle at 122 pounds for trainer David Fawkes, Take D’Tour figures to be a heavy favorite against her own sex in the mile-and-one-sixteenth Distaff.
 
The Sunshine Millions Oaks, which will kick off the Santa Anita action as the second race, appears to be a wide open event with 13 entered. Mistical Plan was victorious in Oak Tree’s Cover Gal Stakes in October and most recently ran third in the Santa Ysabel (gr. III) for trainer O’Neill.

Toll Road was a dazzling seven-length maiden winner earlier this month for Janis Whitham and trainer Ron McAnally. Double Major was fourth when favored in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes last month when favored following an impressive maiden victory.

$250,000 Sunshine Millions Oaks (Race 2), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Hello Bolly, Jorge Chavez
2. Sekira, Alex Solis
3. Prenuptial, David Cohen
4. Mistical Plan, David Flores
5. High Cholesterol, Richard Migliore
6. Tiz Elemental, Victor Espinoza
7. A. V. Flynn, Kyle Kaenel
8. Tizthen, Brice Blanc
9. Super Freaky, Jon Court
10. Double Major, Corey Nakatani
11. Go Ray Ray, Aaron Gryder
12. Toll Road, Tyler Baze
13. Short Sentence, Omar Figueroa
Each assigned 120 pounds.
 
$500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff (Race 3), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles
1. Dancing General, Alex Solis, 122
2. Getback Time, Corey Nakatani, 120
3. Friel’s for Real, Aaron Gryder, 122
4. Take D’Tour, Eibar Coa, 122
5. Joint Effort, Eddie Castro, 120
6. Purrfectly Fitting, David Flores, 120
7. Saffronista, Martin Garcia, 120
8. No Sleep, Tyler Baze, 122
9. Bit of Folly, Jon Court, 122
10. Preciousness, Alex Bisono, 120
11. Beneficial Bartok, David Cohen, 122
12. Somethinaboutlaura, Victor Espinoza, 122
--Also eligible--
13. Yearly Attitude, Richard Migliore, 122

$300,000 Sunshine Millions Padua Stables Sprint (Race 4), 4 & Up, 6 Furlongs
1. Areyoutalkintome, Victor Espinoza, 122
2. Mach Ride, Eibar Coa, 121
3. Souvenir Evening, Jon Court, 121
4. Debonair Joe, no rider, 122
5. Red Warrior, David Flores, 122
6. Nightmare Affair, Eddie Castro, 122
7. Bordonaro, Richard Migliore, 122
8. Proud Tower Too, David Cohen, 122
9. Smokey Stover, Gryder, 121

$500,000 Sunshine Millions San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino Turf (Race 5), 4 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
1. Railroad, Aaron Gryder, 122
2. Wild Buddy, Jon Court, 122
3. Revved Up, Eddie Castro, 122
4. Icy Atlantic, Eibar Coa, 122
5. El Don, Alex Solis, 122
6. Go Between, David Flores, 120
7. Jack’s Wild, Brice Blanc, 122
8. Running Free, Danny Sorenson, 122
9. Sabre Baby, Jorge Chavez, 122
10. Sherwood Park, Alex Bisono, 122
11. Lava Man, Corey Nakatani, 122
12. Super Strut, Tyler Baze, 122
--Also eligible--
13. Maraquero, Richard Monterrey, 122
           

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