(from Hollywood Park)
California's $5-million gelding Lava Man is set to return to action in the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III) Dec. 12 at Hollywood Park, according to trainer Doug O'Neill.
“I think he’s ready,” O’Neill said Dec. 3, speaking a day after the 8-year-old worked six furlongs in a bullet 1:13.60 at Hollywood under regular exercise rider Tony Romero. “He looks great.”
The three-time Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) winner returned to training in September following a one-year retirement. He would be making his first start since July 2008 in the 1 1/8 mile-test on Cushion Track.
“His return has been a big boost to the barn,” said O’Neill. “He’s a champion. To have a champion around on a daily basis is really great.”
O’Neill said Lava Man’s return following stem-cell therapy to his front ankles at Alamo Pintado in Los Olivos has been good for the horse.
“Tom Hudson, who manages Magali Farms where he was at, said he was depressed when he wasn’t doing much,” said O’Neill. “He seems like a happy camper here. With the exercise and all, he enjoys the action.”
Meet-leading jockey Joel Rosario has the call aboard the California-bred Lava Man for the first time in the Native Diver. Rosario would become the 13th jockey to ride the venerable son of Slew City Slew--Li’l Ms. Leonard, by Nostalgia’s Star. Lava Man, a $50,000 claim on Sept. 13, 2004 by O'Neill for STD Stable, has won 17 of 46 starts and earned $5,268,706.
O’Neill and Rosario teamed to win the Native Diver last year with Slew's Tizzy.
O’Neill also nominated High Court Drama and Square Eddie to the Native Diver. Others nominated are Cigar Man, Deal Breaker, Mast Track, Neko Bay, One Track Mind, Richard's Kid , Times Gone By, Tres Borrachos, Viscount, and Whatsthescript.