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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Lava Man Hangs On

- Wow, what a finish in the Hollywood Gold Cup, as Lava Man got all he could handle from the absolute unlikeliest horse in the field to do so. Ace Blue, a deserving 24-1 longest shot in the field, looked finished on the turn as he dropped back after briefly attaining the lead from Magnum. In fact, announcer Vic Stauffer said at that point that “Ace Blue will watch those two run away” as Lava Man and Magnum sprinted around the turn. But incredibly, he came back on, and slowly but surely cut into the lead of Lava Man, who had to work hard to put away a stubborn Magnum.

And it seems to me that Ace Blue did indeed pass the 3-5 favorite as they came under the wire, losing the decision only on an unfortunate head bob at the wire. Trainer Doug O’Neill thought that he had lost. Ace Blue’s rider Victor Espinoza said, "One more jump, and I would have got him.” [LA Times] I think that he may have had him a half-jump before the wire as well.

Lava Man stumbled at the start and was taken out of his usual front-running game when that allowed Magnum to grab the lead. He had to do some really serious running around the turn to even engage Magnum, as that one was zipping from the three-quarters to the mile mark in 23.23 seconds. And then when he finally put that one away, he held off – though just barely – Ace Blue, to whom he was conceding ten pounds. There was a lot of adversity to overcome, but as jockey Corey Nakatani noted, "He does whatever you ask him to do. Turf, dirt, on the lead or coming from off it. What more can you ask of him?" [Mercury News]

- As the field turned for home in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes, the track announcer noted that “the front two in the market are the last two in the race.” Favorites Ouija Board and David Junior trailed the field, but the pace was quick up front, thanks in part to Royal Achemist, who was purchased during the week to be entered as a rabbit on David Junior’s behalf.

From that point on, it was strictly a tale of two trips. Jockey Christophe Soumillon tried to weave Ouija Board through the thicket of the field, and was repeatedly stopped, leaned on, and ultimately took a stumble and dropped well back. She showed her tremendous class just coming back to finish 5th. In the meantime, Jamie Spencer waited patiently on David Junior, and found a clear path home to win by a length and a half. Winning trainer Brian Meehan said, “I suppose you have got to say that the pace in the Prince Of Wales’ caught him out....He came from last turning in and picked up but he’s a seriously, seriously good horse. We’re back where we need to be and now we’ll take a breather.” [Sunday Herald]

As for Ouija Board, her racing manager Peter Stanley said that she came out of the ordeal OK, and mentioned the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes as a possible next start.

“She’s a little bit bruised and sore but she’s fine after the race,” said Peter Stanley, racing manager to Ouija Board’s owner Lord Derby.

“We’ll see how she is in the next week or 10 days and see where we go after that.

“She’s had three runs in quite quick succession but we’ll keep an eye on the King George field and see how she comes out of the Eclipse.

“At this stage, I wouldn’t rule it in and I wouldn’t rule it out.” [Ireland Online]
- Prioress winner Wildcat Bettie B benefited from a torrid pace up front to take the Grade 1 race. It looked like 18-1 Wild Gams was going to be the beneficiary of the hot fractions, but the winner ran by in the final yards. “I'm glad it's a long lane," said jockey Mario Pino.

It’s the third stakes win of the year for Wildcat Bettie B, who remains the only stakes winner of this year for her sire Meadowlake, 6% stakes winners from foals over his stud career.

- The New York Times is reporting today that Empire Racing Associates has indeed enlisted Delaware North, the Buffalo-based owner of the Finger Lakes, as their partner in the bid for the New York franchise. The company’s holdings also include the Saratoga harness track, and the Fairgrounds Gaming and Raceway (the former Buffalo Raceway).