The 5-year-old gelding was a force last year in the Handicap Division but went to the Japan Cup Dirt rather than the Breeders' Cup Classic. In Japan, he finished next-to-last of 12. Back in the States, he has reeled off six straight wins, including four Grade I events.
In the Pacific Classic, Lava Man charged to the lead, established position inside Preachinatthebar and just kept running. In the stretch, he opened up a daylight lead and finished 2 1/2 lengths in front. Good Reward rallied for second and Super Frolic was third. The 1 1/4 mile took 2:01.62 -- a slow time for California.
Perfect Drift was fourth and Giacomo, whose 2004 Kentucky Derby victory is a dim memory, again failed to run competitively and finished fifth.
"He did everything I asked of him -- and less," said winning rider Corey Nakatani. "After he cleared in the stretch, he just started waiting on them. When we were galloping out and they came up alongside him again, he got back into it."
And, Nakatani added, "He's surely as good as any good horse I've ever ridden. He may even be better. He's something."
Trainer Doug O'Neill said there should be no trouble coming up with supplemental payment to get Lava Man into the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Powered by Dodge. "He's earned the money," O'Neill said.
In other weekend races that might affect the Classic:
-- At Monmouth Park on Saturday, Park Avenue Ball stalked the early pace in the $250,000 Philip H. Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap, surged to the lead five 16ths out and outfinished Survivalist to win by 3/4 lengths. Master Command finished third and Sinister G was fourth after showing the way. Park Avenue Ball is a 4-year-old, New Jersey-bred colt by Citidancer. He ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in1:49.73 under Christopher DeCarlo. "He was in good position all the way," said winning trainer Jim Ryerson. "When he got by, the question was the distance. But he dug in." Ryerson said he may run the colt back in the Meadowlands Cup but also is thinking about the Sept. 16 "J-Bred Day" as the next step.
-- At Emerald Downs on Sunday, Flamethrowintexan dueled with Papi Chullo most of the way around in the $250,000 Longacres Mile and got home a scant neck in front. Southern Africa was 5 lengths farther back in third. Flamethrowintexan went out to a brisk pace under Ricky Frazier and still had enough gas in the tank at the end to get the job done despite some bumping with Papi Chullo in the final yards. The final time was 1:34 2/5. Flamethrowintexan is a 5-year-old, Florida-bred son of Way West.
In other weekend racing with potential implications for the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Churchill Downs:
$2 million Emirates Airline Distaff
-- Phipps Stable and trainer Shug McGaughey are no stranger to the top ranks of the distaff division and they're back this year with a vengeance. Pine Island, a Phipps homebred daughter of Arch, avenged close losses in the Mother Goose and the Coaching Club American Oaks with a late-running, 1 1/4-length victory in Saturday's $600,000 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga. Racing near the back of the nine-filly field early, Pine Island came between horses with a quarter mile to run and battled past pace-setting Teammate in the final 16th to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Teammate held second and Lemons Forever, the Kentucky Oaks winner, finished third with a very wide late bid. Pine Island finished the 1 1/4 mile in 2:02.87 on a fast track with Javier Castellano up. "She should have a big future in front of her," McGaughey said of Pine Island. "This was her best race and there are still things to learn. I threw her to the wolves quick and ran her in Grade I's in her third, fourth and fifth starts. That's really not my style." He said he's considering the Gazelle at Belmont on Sept 9 or the Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 8.
-- Cryptoquip went right to the front in Saturday's $150,000 Arlington Breeders' Cup Oaks at Arlington Park and held on to win by 1/2 length. The favorite, Coolwind, chased the winner all the way around, applying pressure at every pole but couldn't get past. Rolling Sea finished well back in third. Cryptoquip, an Ohio-bred daughter of Cryptoclearance, finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.42 with Robby Albarado up for trainer Tom Proctor. "Tom said to keep her wherever she would be happy," said Albarado, "whether it's on the lead or off the pace. She ran well and did everything right."
-- Roving Angel came out running in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Belle Mahone Stakes at Woodbine and never quit, winning by 5 1/2 lengths, ridden out. Coastal Fortress was second and Whispertoascream finished third. Roving Angel is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Cape Canaveral. She got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.43 with Justin Stein in the irons.
-- She's All Silk ran off to a big lead in Saturday's $100,000 Washington Breeders' Cup Oaks at Emerald Downs, then was all out in the final yards to hold on for a head victory over the heavy favorite, Chestnut Lady. Sophie's Trophy finished third. She's All Silk, a Washington-bred daughter of Delineator, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track with Ricky Frazier up for trainer H.R. Mullens.
-- And Sunday at Emerald Downs, Queenledo came from off the pace to take total command in the stretch run of the $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Distaff Handicap, winning by 8 1/4 lengths. Karls Makaw was second and Bardy Woman third. Queenledo, with Sandi Gann aboard, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34 3/5.
$2 million TVG Sprint
-- Siren Lure broke last of seven in Sunday's $300,000 Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar. But as the field hit the turn, the 5-year-old Joyeux Danseur gelding rallied five-wide, swept to the lead and ran off to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Pure as Gold. Areyoutalkintome finished third and the favorite, one-time 2-year-old champ Declan's Moon, gave way at the top of the stretch and was eased. Siren Lure ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.89. Asked if he's looking forward to the Breeders' Cup, winning trainer Art Sherman said, "I sure am. I'm just wondering what area to go in. It's so hard to go in a sprint with this type of horse."
-- Chandelle No. Five went to the post at nearly 10-1 odds in Saturday's $70,000 Miss Woodford Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Monmouth Park but came up smelling like a rose. The Florida-bred daughter of Yes It's True rallied past pace-setter Pure Disco on the turn and ran off to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Hallie's Girl finished second and New Hope Seven was home third. The favorite, Yachats, was fifth in a dull effort. Chandelle No. Five got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.42 for Alan Garcia.
$2 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
-- Arravale came to the leaders with a wide move into the stretch in Saturday's $400,000 Del Mar Oaks and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Take the Ribbon finished second but was sent down to fourth for stretch interference. That ruling promoted Foxysox to second and Soothsay to third. Arravale, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Arch, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.03 with Jose Valdivia Jr. aboard for trainer Macdonald Benson. The Canadian-based filly had finished third in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park last month. "She might be very important on down the line, given what she did here today," Valdivia said. "I'd love to be able to stick with her."
-- Victory Lap came from far back to post a big upset in Saturday's $100,000 Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Turf. Circling the field eight-wide, the 4-year-old Touch Gold filly got to the leaders late in the stretch run and went past Dash of Humor late to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Praia Da Pipa finished third. The favorite, Flying Glitter, led early but then gave way and finished last of 12. Victory Lap ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:39.61 under Orlando Mojica.
-- Finlandia stuck close to the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Yaddo Handicap for New York-breds at Saratoga, came out at the top of the stretch and went by to win by 1 length over Sabellina. Elisa's Energy was third. Finlandia, a 4-year-old daughter of Royal Anthem out of It's a Gherkin (!), ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.70 with Kent Desormeaux up.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Dutch Art ran his record to 3-for-3 with a 1-length victory over Magic America in Sunday's Darley prix Morny at Deauville. With Christophe Soumillon in the irons, the son of Medicean got past pace-setting Sandwaki at mid-stretch and held on for the win. Excellent Art was along to take third from Sandwaki. Holy Roman Emperor was a late scratch. Dutch Art's future campaign remains uncertain, said winning trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam.
-- Thirteen lengths is an eye-catching winning margin in any race. But in a 7-furlong event for 2-year-olds, perhaps it's even moreso. That was the tally for Officer Rocket in Sunday's $40,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes at Arlington Park. The British-bred son of Officer raced three-wide and behind the leaders through a half mile, then left them behind, finishing in 1:23.96 under John McKee. James Graham, the rider of runner-up Irish Dreamer, claimed foul but it was disallowed. "I don't know what that was all about," McKee said later. Officer Rocket is 2-for-2 lifetime. "Even though Officer was primarily a sprinter, it looks like this horse will go on," said winning trainer Bob Holthus. He said the Arlington-Washington Breeders' Cup Futurity may be next.
-- Marcavelly, the odds-on favorite, gave his backers a bit of a scare by breaking a step slowly in Saturday's $65,000 Continental Mile at Monmouth Park but then settled nicely, came wide into the lane and closed sharply, going on to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Daytona was second and Domenick's Dune third. Marcavelly, a Kentucky-bred colt by 2001 Juvenile winner Johannesburg, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.66.
-- Endless Circle had little trouble winning Saturday's $127,638 Aspirant Stakes for New York-breds at Finger Lakes. Kept to his task by jockey John Davila Jr., the Precise End colt won off by 6 1/2 lengths over Tomorrow the World. Horse Thief was third and the odds-on favorite, Solid Strike, finished fourth after a poor start. Endless Circle ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.29.
$2 million Juvenile Fillies
-- Stillistillmovin set a pressured pace through the first 3 furlongs of Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Debutante at Woodbine, then worked clear at the top of the stretch and went on to win by a comfortable 2 1/4 lengths. Her stablemate, My List, was second and the favorite, Lottacosta, got third. Stillistillmovin, a Kentucky-bred filly by Matty G, ran the 5 furlongs with David Clark up for trainer Nicholas Gonzalez in 58.27 seconds. Stillistillmovin has two wins from two starts. She copped her first try by 6 1/4 lengths.
-- Chief Officer dominated Saturday's $126,725 Lady Fingers Stakes for New York-breds at Finger Lakes, running away from five foes to win by 6 1/4 lengths. Icy City was second and One Tough Belle third. Chief Officer, a daughter of Officer out of the Pine Bluff mare Guilty Pleasure, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.51 under Eibar Coa. Bill Mott trains the filly for Zayat Stables.
-- Sea the Joy rallied from a pace-pressing position to take the lead at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $40,000 Top Flight Stakes at Arlington Park, then held off Lenaro in the late going to win by 3/4 lengths. Ice Storm Coming was third. Sea the Joy, a Kentucky-bred filly by Stormy Atlantic, ran the 7 furlongs under Chris Emigh in 1:24.14. "I had plenty of horse left," Emigh said. "She really relaxes well."
-- Audacious Chloe battled to the lead on the turn in Sunday's $65,000 Junior Champion Stakes, then drew off to win by 4 lengths over Beautiful Venue. Pay Wright was third. Audacious Chloe, a Kentucky-bred filly by More Than Ready, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.21 under Chris DeCarlo.
In other weekend racing:
Financingavailable came from behind the leaders in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Victoriana Stakes for Ontario-bred fillies and mares, took charge in the stretch and won off by 5 1/4 lengths. Sheer Enchantment rallied from last to finish second and Elegant Effort finished third. Financingavailable, a 5-year-old daughter of Kiridashi, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.78 for jockey James McAleney.
Auguri led virtually all the way to a 4 1/2-length victory over Misto Quente in Sunday's $70,000 John's Call Stakes, which was run on the main track after rain forced it off the turf. Auguri, a 5-year-old, Argentine-bred mare by Luhuk, got the 1 3/16 mile in 1:56.46. Approved by Dylan finished third.
Les Ry Leigh rallied from off the pace to win Saturday's $75,000 Twixt Stakes for Maryland-bred, 3-year-old fillies by 7 3/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Smart and Fancy. My Misty's Echo finished third. Les Ry Leigh, a daughter of Broken Vow, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.08.
Sunday, Ah Day rallied from mid-pack to win the $75,000 Deputed Testamony Stakes for Maryland-bred 3-year-olds by 1 length over Valid Brush with Two Terms third. Ah Day, a gelded son of Malibu Moon, ran 1 mile on a "good" main track in 1:39.00 with Jonathan Joyce in the irons.
I'mtoogoodtobetrue was as good as she needed to be in Sunday's $70,000 Powder Handicap for Jersey-bred fillies and mares, running off to win by 5 1/2 lengths over Jenny Bean Girl. Gigno d'Oro finished third. I'mtoogoodtobetrue, a 4-year-old daughter of Good and Tough, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.75 for jockey Joe Bravo.
Lumbre lumbered to the lead after a pace duel in Saturday's $50,000 Silver Goblin Stakes and drew off easily to win by 4 lengths over Outlaw Cowboy. Marq French was third after leading briefly. Lumbre, a 4-year-old, Oklahoma-bred gelding by Expense Account, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.54 under jockey Glen Murphy.
News and notes:
-- Lost in the Fog has inoperable cancer and is expected to be euthanized within the next two weeks, his trainer, Greg Gilchrist, said Friday. The colt won 10 consecutive races last year and won the Eclipse Award as the year's best sprinter despite losing in the Breeders' Cup. Gilchrist and owner Harry Aleo managed the colt carefully and thoughtfully, avoiding the lure of the Triple Crown and instead keeping him within himself. Overall, he won 11 races from 14 starts and earned $978,099.
-- On a much happier note, Lil Red returned to the winner's circle after dominating nine outclassed rivals in a nonwinners-of-two claiming event Saturday at Thistledown. The 5-year-old son of Tinners Way and grandson of Black Tie Affair dawdled last under Tommy Myers through a half mile, kicked in for real at the quarter pole and drew off to win by 4 3/4 lengths. He covered 1 mile and 70 yards on a sloppy track in 1:47.30. Way to go Gamer Racing Stable!