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Monday, August 21, 2006

Lava Man Is The Man!

- Lava Man made what seemed on paper to be a nice Grade 1 field seem ordinary. Corey Nakatani said that he "chirped" to him before he quickly drew away to leave the Pacific Classic field in the dust. "That horse said, 'Goodbye, it was nice knowing you,'" said Bob Baffert, the trainer of Preachinatthebar, who had the poor judgment to knock heads with the favorite on the lead early on. Later on, he was gone. And though the time and the final quarter may not have been quick (2:01.62, and 26.12 respectively), the message is clear that there's nobody on that coast that's gonna beat this guy. The win completed an unprecedented sweep of the Big Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and the Pac Classic.

I'm reading more and more of Perfect Drift's trainer Murray Johnson's bitching about the track condition. As we were discussing in the comments section, Johnson saw the track being graded, or scraped, the night before, which he feels favored the front-running Lava Man to the detriment of his own. Sounds like the usual sour grapes, but I'm pretty shocked at the personal nature of some of his remarks.

“There are a lot of people who manipulate things in this game. It's like the drugs and what they treat the horses with. They all think they've got an edge. We know how (Lava Man) does back East when he travels. (Lava Man hasn't won outside California.) I'd love to know his bicarb (bicarbonate) level, too. I'll guarantee it's in the 30s. Which means he's . . . it's not a legitimate thing. I'm not bitching because I lost. I'm just telling you what I saw.” [SignOnSanDiego]
Seemed like a not-veiled-at-all barb towards the winner's trainer, who recently had a positive for milkshakes that caused his entries to be quarantined.

I was a bit surprised (and disappointed) that Giacomo didn't attract more mutuel support - he was 9-2 third choice. But then again, it was right there in black and white if you looked at the Beyers, and at the fractions of his mile and a quarter races. Shug McGaughey has been percolating at Saratoga, and the second by Good Reward contines that trend.

I had the Pick Three, and didn't use Declan's Moon anywhere on the tickets. Easy to say now of course, but as much as I admired his comeback race, I thought he was an awful favorite in this spot. Again, his Beyers were nowhere near these, and the improvement he would have needed to compete with what was a very tough bunch was just too much to ask in my opinion. I would have loved Pure As Gold to hang on at 8-1, but once Siren Lure got going, the race was over. This is one nice five-year old gelding, and it was his third consecutive graded stakes win. Whatsmore, he can run on the grass too.

Nonetheless, it's disappointing to see Declan's Moon run so poorly, and Victor Espinoza eased him up in the lane. “He didn't want to run today....On the turn, I just stopped trying with him. Today was not his day.” Ron Ellis said that "He ran like a horse who might have bled,” and I hope the explanation is as simple as that.

In the middle leg, I left out a 9-5 Frankel favorite, and had Sartorial, making his first start on the grass at 5-1. So I must say that while I'm of course not complaining, I was a bit disappointed with the $128 Pick Three payoff. I know it's hard to create value when there's a big favorite involved, but I did beat two favorites, and Lava Man wasn't that big of a favorite. He was in the Pick Three pool though. Sometimes you can get a surprise, especially with a first-time turf winner who gets bet on the nose, but this wasn't one of them.

2 Comments:

Walter said...

Nice work on the Pick 3, Alan. Nice effort by Lava Man too, and wow, it's really becoming routine for that guy, isn't it? Runs just as well on grass too, or so it seems. I had my doubts about Lava Man running in the Classic this year due to the large supplemental fee, and the fact that they passed on it last year after a horrible prep run @ Belmont. The horse simply doesn't rtun well outside of California, he's one of those types. That being said however, he certainly looks like a different horse this year. And Churchill ain't Belmont. So I guess they're gonna take a shot this year, O'Neill virtually confirmed it after the race.

As for Declan's Moon, I disagree 100% with Alan's analysis of his chances (and yes, i know the race is over. 8^P) First things first, Declan's Moon's owners recently paid a large fee so that he'd be Breeders Cup-eligible from this point forward. I can't imagine they would've done that if the horse weren't healthy, and pretty much 100% over his injury. His fine return effort (and glowing workout reports heading into that race) only seemed to verify that. Looking deeper, and knowing that his connections were thinking Breeders Cup, you'd have to assume they were looking at the Sprint. There just wasn't enough time left for Declan's Moon to make a serious run at the Classic, particularly when he's never been beyond 1 1/16 miles in his life. So yeah, I think it's a given they were looking at the Sprint for him. As for his Beyers not matching up, I think you have to allow that the horse has run only once since his 2yo/early 3yo season, when no matter how fast you run, the Beyer Boys simply aren't going to give you a 110 or whatever. For anyone able, take the highest Beyer EVER recorded by a 2yo, and then compare it to the Beyers in yesterday's race. You'll see what I mean. Now, I know this is way in the distant past, but anyone who saw Declan's Moon's sprint effort vs. Roman Ruler in the Del Mar Futurity a couple of years ago know that he's a stone-cold sprinter. No problem there. I might also point out that that came in career start #2, at 7 furlongs, over the Del Mar surface. Pretty much an identical situation as yesterday's race. Now obviously, it was a huge step up in class for him yesterday, but the horse is nothing if not extremely talented, and he was drawn very favorably on the outside. I'm not suggesting he should've been favored yesterday, and I certainly didn't bet him. But I most certainly had him ranked as a serious contender, and I was expecting a big effort out of him. I have no idea what happened, though obviously it doesn't look good. I saw where his trainer (Ron Ellis) speculated that he bled. I guess it could be that, or maybe he could've flipped his palate. It's encouraging that Ellis didn't immediately mention his knee, which I believe was the reason for his long absence. But I guess we can rule out the Breeders Cup, in any event. As for the winner, Siren Lure, his trainer seemed to indicate afterward that he wasn't too keen on a Breeders Cup Sprint try, though he virtually guaranteed that Siren Lure would run on Breeders Cup Day. He cited that fact that Siren Lure has been dropping farther and farther off the pace recently, for whatever reason. He seemed to be more interested in a Breeders Cup Mile try, which to be quite honest had never even crossed my mind. But yeah, the horse runs just fine on turf (particularly on Santa Anita's downhill course). His new off-the-pace style would seem much more conducive to a Mile win than it would a Sprint win, and it's only a furlong farther than his two most recent wins. Hmmm, it seems to make a lot of sense. I think it also minimizes that chance that he might not handle a non-California surface, as I'm guessing the Churchill grass would be less-different to him than the Churchill main track would. As long as it doesn't rain that week. As for second-place finisher Pure as Gold, it was another very fine effort from him, and I think it flattered Bordonaro (not that he needs any flattering). Incidentally, Midnight Lute was seen in the winners circle after yesterday's 9th. In his two races since that year-long layoff, he's been second by a neck and than first yesterday. Nice job by Baffert bringing this one back after knee surgery.

Daphne said...

Let's give the old boy a chance. I wonder what went on during the knee surgery? Hmmm, bionic man, are you there?