- HALL OF FAME MEMBER LAVA MAN ONE IN $5 MILLION
- SATURDAY IS PARTY TIME FOR DERBY AT SANTA ANITA
- WARREN‘S VENEDA TO WORK ON THURSDAY FOR VANITY
- PEDROZA EYES RARE DOUBLE: PRIVATE ZONE, BIG FIGHT
O’NEILL ENVISIONS TRIPLE CROWN FOR AMERICAN PHAROAH
Lava Man is one of the newest members of racing’s Hall of Fame, and at 14, the old
warrior is still in familiar environs as a valued pony at Doug O’Neill’s barn.
A California-bred son of Slew City Slew, Lava Man was claimed during his 3-year-old season for $50,000 and retired with earnings of $5,268,706, most of that for owners STD Racing Stable and partner Jason Wood.
Lava Man won seven Grade I races, to date more than any other Cal-bred in history, and 17 of 47 starts. Only Best Pal and 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome have higher career earnings among Cal-breds.
Lava Man won three consecutive runnings of the Hollywood Gold Cup from 2005 through 2007 and back-to-back editions of the Santa Anita Handicap in 2006 and 2007.
“It’s unbelievable,” O’Neill said of the honor, which will officially be bestowed Aug. 7
at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
“Usually, your horse has to die to get in the Hall of Fame, so for him to get in it and still be such a healthy horse that’s still active for us daily and a big part of our team is very humbling and an amazing honor,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill, who saddled I’ll Have Another to an upset victory in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and came within hours of running for the Triple Crown until an injury dashed those aspirations, has lofty expectations for this year’s favorite, the Bob Baffert-trained American Pharaoh, who worked five furlongs at Churchill Downs this morning under Martin Garcia in 58.40.
It was the fastest of 32 drills at the distance. Pharoah galloped out six furlongs 1:11.40.
“You just don’t know how good American Pharoah is,” O’Neill said. “He’s looked like an
absolute machine, and he’s doing it effortlessly. For him to win the Arkansas Derby from off the pace shows a different dimension.
“If he stays injury-free, he’s got Triple Crown written all over him.”
KENTUCKY DERBY GALA AT SANTA ANITA SATURDAY
Fans can join the biggest Derby party west of Kentucky at Santa Anita next Saturday, an afternoon filled with world-class racing, hat contests, mint juleps and live racing.
Festivities include an Infield Beer-fest with live music from Seedless, and a party in the Premium Gallop Out in the Club House East. Fans can purchase a Trackside Package for a prime seat and their first drink in a commemorative cup featuring Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund, plus all the fun and excitement of racing’s best 3-year-olds in the Kentucky Derby.
First post time next Saturday is 11:30 a.m. Gates open at 7:30 a.m. Tickets can be purchased at santaanita.com.
CAPTIVATING ‘VENEDA’-BEHOLDER MATCH LOOMS IN VANITY
While the Kentucky Derby next Saturday is on every racing fan’s radar screen, another intriguing match looms a week later on May 9 at Santa Anita: the Grade I, $300,000 Vanity Stakes for older fillies and mares, and a possible showdown between streaking stakes winner Warren’s Veneda and two-time Eclipse Award champion Beholder.
Warren’s Veneda, a California-bred daughter of Affirmative trained by Craig Lewis for owner/breeder Benjamin Warren, has won three straight stakes, including the Grade I Santa Margarita on March 14.
Beholder, trained by Richard Mandella for B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm LLC, was champion filly at two and three and won her first start of 2015, the restricted Santa Lucia Stakes on April 10 in what perhaps amounted to a paid workout.
“If I had my preference, she’s not who I’d choose to run against, a two-time Eclipse Award-winning champion, a great mare,” Lewis said. “We’re up against it.”
Warren’s Veneda is scheduled to work five furlongs at Santa Anita this Thursday.
While Beholder’s opposition in the Santa Lucia might be considered suspect on class, Lewis wasn’t buying.
“They might be,” he said, “but Beholder’s prior record and her bankroll indicate that she’s a top-notch mare, no question. You don’t win $3 million if you’re not the goods, and she’s nine out of 10 on this race track. That’s pretty impressive.
“They don’t come much better than her, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
Mandella could be motivated by a revenge factor. He couldn’t be blamed for still harboring bitter memories of the 1995 Santa Anita Derby, when Larry the Legend, trained by Lewis, won by a head in a stretch-long drive over the Mandella trained Afternoon Deelites.
Twenty years later, Mandella called recollection of the defeat “a nightmare.”
PEDROZA ‘FIGHTING’ UPHILL BATTLE ON SATURDAY
If Martin Pedroza pulls off a miraculous double next Saturday, it would surpass his signature six consecutive victories on Breeders’ Cup Day, Oct. 31, 1992, at Oak Tree, and his triumph aboard 50-1 shot Martial Law in the 1989 Santa Anita Handicap.
All he has to do is win the Churchill Downs Stakes on Private Zone, then catch a plane to Las Vegas for the welterweight title match at the MGM Grand between Manny Pacquiao and undefeated Floyd Mayweather.
Oh, and one more thing. First, he needs a ticket to the fight.
“He’s licensed, booked and ready to go,” said Pedroza’s long-time agent, Richie Silverstein, of the trip to Kentucky. “If things break right and the race is early, he could leave Kentucky at 4:20 and be in Vegas by 7, and get to the fight on time. But he needs a ticket.”
To that end, ever the loyalist Silverstein offered his cell phone number should anyone scrounge up a ducat: 626-232 9898.
FINISH LINES: Bargain $50,000 claim Imperative arrived at Santa Anita yesterday after his second-place finish to Moreno in last Saturday’s $1.5 million Charles Town Classic which earned him about $280,000. “He’s earned close to $2 million since I claimed him,” said trainer George Papaprodromou, who saddled the son of Bernardini to upset Game On Dude in the West Virginia race last year, winning $1 million. “We’re thinking of the Gold Cup (at Santa Anita on closing day, June 28), hopefully,” Papaprodromouo said . . . Trainer Simon Callaghan sat down with Aaron Vercruysse and discussed his first Kentucky Derby contender, Firing Line. To see this video and many more interviews plus recent Derby workout footage, visit Xpressbet’s YouTube page at https://youtu.be/UIV_tK04zec . . .Las Flores Stakes winner Harlington’s Rose, prepping for the $150,000 Spring Fever Stakes at six furlongs on May 23, worked four furlongs Sunday in 48.80. Trainer Steve Knapp called the move “excellent.” . . . Congrats to Joe Talamo and Elizabeth Ellis, who were engaged to be married this past Friday . . . On Monday, May 18, Host Town Arcadia will offer lunch and dinner at The Derby Restaurant, 233 Huntington Drive, Arcadia, for a fundraiser to benefit the Arcadia Host Town Committee supporting the Special Olympics. Call 626 447-2430 for reservations.