Santa Anita, 5th Race - Jan. 27, 2007
ARCADIA, Calif. -- The comfort of home has made Lava Man nearly unbeatable in California.
Saturday, the 6-year-old gelding won his 10th career stakes in California in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf for California-breds and Florida-breds at Santa Anita. The victory stretched his unbeaten streak in his home state to eight wins, all of which have come in stakes.
In the Sunshine Millions Turf, Lava Man displayed the late rally that has made him a multi-millionaire. Ridden by regular rider Corey Nakatani, Lava Man stalked pacesetter Wild Buddy to the end of the backstretch, took the lead on the turn with a wide run, and pulled clear to win by two lengths.
Lava Man ($3.40) ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:47.60. He raced off the rail throughout, but was always handy under Nakatani.
"He's still the Lava Man of old," Nakatani said, adding that trainer Doug O'Neill "said he really didn't have him cranked up but had him plenty good for the race. He's a warrior. His stride doesn't change on turf or dirt."
Icy Atlantic finished second, a neck in front of Go Between in the field of 10. Maraquero and Sabre Baby were scratched on Saturday; Revved Up was withdrawn earlier in the week because of a sore foot.
Icy Atlantic was making his first start since finishing last of 11 in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in November. Go Between won the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs last July. The second- and third-place finishers are Florida-breds.
Lava Man was making his first start since finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Classic, his only loss of 2006.
Owned by STD Racing and Jason Wood, Lava Man was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for the nation's outstanding older male of 2006. He won 7 of 8 starts and $2,770,000 in 2006, a campaign that saw him become the first horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic in the same year.
Lava Man started 2006 with a win in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita, a race that was run at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. O'Neill considered sending Lava Man to Gulfstream Park for the Classic, but changed his mind, saying it was better to run Lava Man "out of his own stall."
Lava Man has won 15 of 36 starts and $4,079,706.