Lava Man Could Stay on Lawn; Sam's Ace Out

(from Hollywood Park notes)
Lava Man's return to grass was such a smashing success with a Hollywood Park course-record effort in the $150,000 TVG Khaled Stakes on Sunday that the 5-year-old horse may remain on turf for his next start, trainer Doug O'Neill said Wednesday.

"The power he did it in was incredible," said O'Neill of the horse's victory in 1:44.26 for 1 1/8 miles under a hand ride by Corey Nakatani, bettering the 1:44.78 standard set by Fastness in 1995. "From start to finish, his race was so powerful. I didn't realize how much he relished this course."

O'Neill repeated that Lava Man's main goal for the meet remains the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) on July 8, but now the horse might use another turf race instead of the $250,000 Californian (gr. IIT) on June 17 as his next start here before the Gold Cup.

"We're definitely looking at the Whittingham as his possible next goal," said O'Neill, referring to the $300,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) at 1 1/4 miles on grass on June 10.

O'Neill said Sam's Ace, pulled up as the favorite during the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds on Sunday's Gold Rush program, suffered a serious injury in the race.

"He strained a suspensory ligament on the inside of his right front ankle," said O'Neill. "His racing career might be over, although his owners will have to make that decision. It looks like he will become a riding horse or a stallion prospect."

Sam's Ace was pulled up at the second turn and vanned off. The son of In excess-Queen of Pain (Meadowlake) had run fourth after a wide trip in the Florida Derby (gr. I) April 1. He has won three of six starts and $131,040 for owners Paul Reddam and Aaron Wellman.