Defending Pacific Classic (gr. I) champion Lava Man had his final major prep for the $1-million test on Aug. 19 when he breezed six furlongs before the first race in 1:14 4/5 over Del Mar's Polytrack surface Aug. 11.
Trainer Doug O'Neill sought track permission to work his California star in the afternoon.
"The track has been a little bit more tiring in the afternoons," O'Neill said. "The owners and I put our heads together about this, and the racing office was very cooperative to let us do it. We want to have him as prepared as possible."
O'Neill noted, as have other trainers, that Del Mar's Polytrack is tighter in the mornings when the sky is overcast and looser in the afternoons after the sun comes out. He has started working some of his horses later in the morning so they can benefit from a surface more like the afternoons.
Breaking off at the five-furlong pole under regular exercise rider Tony Romero, the gelded son of Slew City Slewwas under strong restraint as he traveled the first quarter-mile in :26 3/5. After a half-mile in :51 2/5, the 6-year-old picked up the pace with an eighth-of-a mile in 11 seconds to reach five furlongs in 1:02 3/5. His final furlong from the finish line to the seven-furlong pole was :12 1/5 seconds. He was timed galloping out seven furlongs in 1:28.
Lava Man cooled out well outside of O'Neill's barn after the work as the trainer looked on.
"That'll work," O'Neill said. "I loved it. He did it nice and easy, which was the idea. And, he finished up strong and galloped out strong. It was a typical work for him. I'd call it impressive."