Lava Man, the former claimer who earned more than $5 million, has returned to training at Doug O’Neill’s Hollywood Park barn. The 8-year-old gelding worked three furlongs in :36 flat Sept. 23 at Hollywood, his first official work.
O’Neill, who claimed Lava Man for owners STD Racing Stable and Jason Wood, said Lava Man came into his Hollywood barn shortly after the Del Mar meeting closed Sept. 9.
His work on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track was the fastest of 24 at the distance for the morning. “He worked unbelievable and cooled out fantastic,” O’Neill said.
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Lava Man (Slew City Slew--Li’l Ms. Leonard, by Nostalgia's Star) was retired in late July 2008 after a sixth-place finish in the July 20 Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar.
“The intent was to retire him because he was off form,” said O’Neill. “He went to Alamo Pintado, where they did a lot of diagnostics on him. They thought they could do some things to help with new technology.”
The Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Hospital in Los Olivos, Calif., works extensively in the area of stem-cell therapy. O’Neill said Lava Man underwent treatment, led by Dr. Doug Herthel, Alamo Pintado’s founder. The gelding has been residing at Rich and Gaby Sulpizio’s Magali Farms not far from the hospital.
“They did stem cell therapy on Lava Man’s ankles,” O’Neill said. “Dr. Herthel said that he has the ankles of a 3-year-old. His ankles look phenomenal.”
Lava Man has been in training at Magali for about the last four months.
“They’d been two-minute licking him, and he had a lot of miles on him before he came here,” said O’Neill. “Tom (Magali farm manager Tom Hudson) said that once Lava Man was put back in training, he was so much happier than when he was just hanging out at the farm.”
O’Neill said that he will be taking Lava Man’s training one work at a time, with no specific goal as to when the gelding would return to the races. Dr. Herthel will be visiting O’Neill’s barn periodically to follow up on his star patient.
“If and when he comes back, it will be a great moment,” said O’Neill. “Rest assured, he’ll have been gone over a zillion times physically, and only then would we bring him back.”
"It is an honor to be the caretaker of such a champion," he added.
O’Neill said that he would donate his usual 10% training commission to the California Retirement Management Account so that retired Thoroughbreds would benefit.
Bred by Lonnie Arterburn and Eve and Kim Kuhlmann in California, Lava Man won 17 of 46 races from ages 2 through 7 for earnings of $5,268,706. His stakes victories included three Hollywood Gold Cups (gr. I), two Santa Anita Handicaps (gr. I), and one Pacific Classic (gr. I).