Lava Man, shown winning the 2007 Santa Anita Handicap, could return for the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Lava Man, shown winning the 2007 Santa Anita Handicap, could return for the Hollywood Gold Cup.

AP/Mark Avery

Lava Man Gold Cup Bound; Stevie Wonderboy Comeback Delayed

Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner Lava Man could return to competition for the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) June 30, while quarter cracks have delayed the comeback of juvenile champion Stevie Wonderboy, trainer Doug O’Neill reported May 9.

O’Neill plans to work Lava Man for the first time this weekend since the gelding’s unsuccessful trip to Dubai. Stevie Wonderboy, meanwhile, developed a couple of quarter cracks in his right front foot, but is “definitely heading forward, just slowly,” O’Neill said.

“Lava Man is doing fantastic,” O’Neill said. “The Gold Cup is the game plan. We’ll see how he does in his first few works, but we’re hoping to be able to run there.”

Lava Man finished far back in the March 31 Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) after having won this year’s Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and Sunshine Millions Turf in his home state of California. He has captured the last two Gold Cups, and a third victory would tie him with Native Diver, the only horse to have won three editions of the race.

Stevie Wonderboy has not raced since his second in the 2006 San Rafael Stakes (gr. II). He sustained a condylar fracture in his right front ankle after a work and later had to have a chip removed from the same ankle.

“He’s been having problems with his feet,” O’Neill said. “It turned out that he had quarter cracks on the inside and outside of the same foot. When it’s that same ankle, you worry. We were almost relieved that it was a quarter crack.”

O’Neill said farrier Jimmy Jimenez, whom the trainer credits with keeping Lava Man’s feet in good shape, is also taking care of Stevie Wonderboy’s quarter cracks. The 4-year-old son of Stephen Got Even has not worked since March 26, but O’Neill says he is moving forward again.

“We’re still a few months away from him racing again, unfortunately,” O’Neill said.

Another older horse in the O’Neill barn, 2007 Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) winner Spring At Last, is pointing for the May 28 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park. He worked a half-mile May 8 at Hollywood Park in :48.00, “absolutely cruising,” O’Neill said.