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Nakatani is OK after spill

Jockey will be ready to ride Lava Man in Sunday's $1-million Pacific Classic.

August 16, 2007|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

DEL MAR -- Trainer Doug O'Neill -- as well as jockey Corey Nakatani -- got a scare Wednesday.

Nakatani, scheduled to ride defending champion Lava Man in Sunday's $1-million Pacific Classic, took a nasty spill before the seventh race at Del Mar when his mount, Corazondelcampeon, got spooked and dumped him on the way from the paddock area to the track.

At first it was feared Nakatani might have dislocated a shoulder, but X-rays showed it was only a bruise.

"I've talked to him and he is going to be fine," O'Neill said later Wednesday at the Pacific Classic draw party at the Lodge at Torrey Pines.

"He's going to take a couple of days off, but he'll be ready to go Sunday."

Lava Man drew post position No. 1, which didn't exactly thrill O'Neill.

"I would have preferred seven or eight," he said. "The No. 1 post makes it a jockey's race. He has got to make sure he doesn't get boxed in."

Lava Man, installed as the early 5-2 favorite, will be facing 12 other horses, including three 3-year-olds, who were entered Wednesday in the 17th running of the track's event, a 1 1/4 -mile journey over the new Polytrack surface.

The Pacific Classic will be run as the eighth race on Sunday's 10-race card, which includes two other graded races, the Del Mar Mile and the Pat O'Brien Handicap. Post time for the first race Sunday will be 1 p.m. rather than the normal 2 p.m. post time. Post time for the Classic is about 4:45.

If all 13 start, it will be the second-largest field for the Pacific Classic, topped only by the 14 that ran in 2002 when 3-year-old Came Home won the race.

Three-year-olds in the race carry 117 pounds, while older horses tote 124. As many as 14 horses had been considered for the race, but Brazilian-bred Molengao was not entered by trainer Paolo Lobo, who said he wasn't happy with the way the 6-year-old son of Royal Academy had been training.

Besides winning last year's Pacific Classic, Lava Man, ridden by Nakatani in his last 14 races, also has won the past two Santa Anita Handicaps and past three Hollywood Gold Cups.

Lava Man's win last year in the Pacific Classic made him the only horse to sweep Southern California's top three races for older horses in the same year.

Back to battle Lava Man from the Gold Cup are runner-up A.P. Xcellent, beaten by a nose in the 1 1/4 -mile race; Big Booster, third only three-quarters of a length behind the winner, and fourth-place finisher Porfido.

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larry.stewart@latimes.com

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