- Blame me for my east coast bias if you'd like, but, in the wake of Pletcher's five winners at Gulfstream on Saturday, I failed to mention (until now) Doug O'Neill's four winners at Santa Anita, which included, of course, Great Hunter and Lava Man.
For Lava Man, it was a workmanlike, if not dominant performance as he disposed of a competitive field to whom he spotted eight to nine pounds as well as some ground on the final turn, earning a Beyer of 109. He was also hampered by a slowish pace up front, and Nakatani said he waited longer than usual to make his move. "Today I waited and didn't make that standard run of his because the track has been so heavy all day." [SGVTribune.com] The final quarter was run in 25.47 seconds. "He did get a little tired at the end," Nakatani said. "This horse will just do whatever you need him to do." [AP] Lava Man became the third horse to win the Big Cap twice.
Next for Lava Man could very well be the $5 million Dubai Duty Free at 1 1/8 mile on the grass, on March 31. In these remarks made to the North County Times, Doug O'Neill seems to already be conceding that the trip overseas will knock his horse out of subsequent competition for awhile....even for a race as far out as the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August.
"To pass on the Pacific Classic is a little bit of a bummer," said winning trainer Doug O'Neill. "When you have an opportunity to run for $5 million ... if he runs well there, we can zero in on a turf race in the Breeders' Cup."And while one of his owners told the paper that "(Running in Dubai) is more to prove a point," another said "It is the money." What do you think? In any event, it would be a loss for racing in North America this year, and not the only one caused by the early season, big bucks festival in Dubai.
Great Hunter's owner J. Paul Reddam said that he'll "probably" race just once more, in the Blue Grass. "He likes that track and he would go there . . . and just stay for the Derby." O'Neill told the Orange County Register that "we really weren't expecting him to win today....We just wanted a good performance, something to build on. He ran better than we expected." That's for sure.
Barclay Tagg seems a little less depressed than he did right after the Fountain of Youth, and told the NY Post that the Wood was back in his plans for Nobiz Like Shobiz.
"I'm disappointed we lost, but I don't feel bad about the horse," he said. "We just have to try and get him to come out of his shenanigans soon."But he's only given himself one more prep in which to do so.