Repeat: Lava Man wins

first_imgMany in the on-track crowd of 43,024 may have been concerned when the 6-year-old son of Slew City Slew failed to make his customary move at the three-eighths pole and open up on his opposition, but none more than owners Steve and David Kenly and Jason Wood. “I think we were all pretty worried when he didn’t kick away from them on the turn like he usually does,” Steve Kenly said. But Lava Man took a half-length lead at the head of the stretch and held off all challengers in an eight-horse field that was reduced by one when Arson Squad became a morning scratch because of a popped abscess on the top of his foot. “This was definitely a little more scary than last year,” David Kenly said. Although it might have been a bit more ugly than most of the other 12victories Lava Man has scored since being claimed for $50,000 in August 2004 at Del Mar, it counts just as much and the winner’s share of $600,000 raised his career earnings to $4,679,706. He has won 13 of 24 races and banked $4,306,103 since the claim. ARCADIA – It was only fitting that on John Henry Day at Santa Anita, another popular gelding made history of his own in the 70th running of the $1million Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday. Lava Man joined John Henry and Milwaukee Brew as the only horses to win two Big ‘Caps – all three horses won in consecutive years – when he held off Molengao by three-quarters of a length in 2:02.11 for the mile and a quarter in the second-slowest running of the race in the past 31 years. “He is just a tremendous animal,” said winning jockey Corey Nakatani, who has won nine of the 11 races that he has ridden the gelding. “Doug O’Neill and his team have him spot on every time he runs. I think he will move forward off this race because he did get a little tired at the end and the weight didn’t do him any good.” Nakatani said he waited a bit longer before making his move because of the track condition. “Today I waited and didn’t make that standard run of his because the track has been so heavy all day,” he said. “We felt he was going to get a little tired because of his last race not being that far.” Lava Man came into the race off a two-length victory in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 27. That was at a mile and an eighth, the same distance he might run next if he comes out of the Big ‘Cap in good order and the connections decide to send him to the $5 million Dubai Duty Free on March 31. Lava Man went postward as the 3-5 favorite and returned $3.20. Molengao, the 7-1 second choice, was 11/2 lengths clear of third-place finisher Boboman, and it was a nose further back to McCann’s Mojave. “I just wish the wire was a little bit further,” Molengao’s rider, Victor Espinoza, said. “I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think the next time Lava Man will beat me.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2103 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!center_img Malek won in 2:02.26 in 1998. This victory, Lava Man’s ninth in his past 10 starts dating to January 2006, was a little scarier than most. Unexpected slow fractions of 24.06, 48.27 and 1:12.65 meant Lava Man had to exert a little more energy in the stretch than normal. last_img