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HORSE RACING

Lava Man will be guest of honor

October 05, 2008|Bill Dwyre | Times Staff Writer

One of the highlights of today's Cal Cup day at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting will be the appearance of a horse that won't even run.

When the horses parade to the post for the $250,000 Cal Cup Classic, they will be led by 7-year-old Lava Man. It will be an honorary march for one of the most popular and successful horses, and a Cal-bred himself, in the last decade in Southern California. Lava Man was retired in July.

Lava Man was the best claim in thoroughbred racing history, being picked up for $50,000 at Del Mar in 2004 and handed over to Doug O'Neill to train. Running for owners STD Racing Stable (Steve, Dave and Tracy Kenly) and Jason Wood, Lava Man became a legend with victories in the three top Southern California Grade I races in the same year. He won the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic in 2006, the only horse ever to do that.

Lava Man also joined the legendary Native Diver as the only horses to win the Hollywood Gold Cup three times.

For that $50,000 claiming investment came a return of $5,286,706, and now, a nice retirement spot for Lava Man at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez.

Among those parading behind Lava Man will be 4-year-old Romance Is Diane, who not only will be the first filly to run in the Grade I Cal Cup Classic, but was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Romance Is Diane has won twice on Cal Cup day, in the Matron last year and the Juvenile Fillies in 2006.

Romance Is Diane, who will be retired to broodmare duties after this race, is trained by Mike Mitchell and will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano. The second choice in the race, according to morning-line odds, is O'Neill's Mr. Chairman, who will be ridden by Michael Baze.

The card will feature 11 races, all for horses and fillies bred in California.

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bill.dwyre@latimes.com.

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