Q & A With Lava Man Trainer Doug O'Neill

 

On Wednesday it was announced that one of the nation's favorite horses, Lava Man, would be retired due to ankle problems, which were discovered shortly after he finished sixth in the July 20 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar.

The 7-year-old Slew City Slew gelding was 17-8-5 from 46 starts and earned $5,268,706 in his remarkable career. He is best known for winning a record-tying three consecutive Hollywood Gold Cups, a mark he shares only with Native Diver. Lava Man also collected two Santa Anita Handicaps, and seven grade I events overall. He won seven consecutive California stakes in 2006. Third all-time for earnings by a California-bred, he won more than $5 million after being claimed by STD Racing and Jason Wood in August of 2004, shattering the record for most money earned after being claimed.

One day after the retirement was announced I caught up with his trainer Doug O'Neill for a short question and answer session.

 

JS: Did you kind of suspect that something was wrong after the Eddie Read Handicap?

DO: Not at all. He had been training so good coming into that race, so I knew he was fit. He just didn't have it after six furlongs. We were disappointed with the results, but he came out of the race fine. It was a head-scratcher, which led us to more diagnostic testing. The radiographs showed that his ankles were still sound, but there were noticeable changes going on. That is always a concern, so we knew we had to do right by him and retire him.

JS: What were the emotions of yourself and his owners after you made the decision?

DO: It was mixed. We realized how grateful we were to be involved with a seven-time grade I winner and a true champion. We were also happy to be retiring a sound horse. At the same time there is definitely some sadness. We'll miss not being able to talk about his next race and that buzz that came on race days.

JS: What kind of fan reaction have you gotten so far?

DO: Most fans that have approached me are happy that we did right by him. They will also miss him racing, but seeing him retire soundly is more important.

JS: What are the plans for him in retirement?

DO: The tentative plan is for him to go to the farm for six months. I'm not sure which farm yet, but wherever he goes he'll just chill out for a while. After that, I would like to re-break him and have him as a stable pony around the barn. That would be unbelievable. To have him as a chaperon for these younger horses and pass on what he has learned would be such a great benefit.

JS: A few fans have asked about Lava Man's temperament. How would you describe him?

DO: He definitely had a lot of energy. Not in a hurtful way, but he let you know he was there. He was always the first one up in the morning. The night watch people could write a book on what he did between the hours of 2 and 5 a.m. He was very active in his stall and just an overall eager horse. He always wanted to be the first to the track. He also did a lot of posing, kind of like he knew the cameras were there.

JS: He was obviously talented, but what were some of the characteristics that made Lava Man so good?

DO: He thrived on the pressures of big races. He knew when they mattered. From an ability standpoint, he had so much natural speed and stamina. He had a very unique style in that he could run you into the ground early and you couldn't catch him late. The other thing is that he was very sound. It is so important to have that consistency.

JS: Lava Man did not start getting very good until he was 4. Looking back, when did you first notice him turning a corner?

DO: It's been so long ago, but I seem to remember when I put blinkers on him that really helped. Also, I dropped him into that $100,000 claimer (May 14, 2005) and that really seemed to get him going. He gained a lot of confidence after that.

JS: There have been so many great moments and memories. What stands out most for you?

DO: Well, being able to recover so quickly after the Japan race was remarkable. He battled foot problems after he came back here and most horses would have needed months back at the farm to recover. With the help of the shoer and the groom, he came back in 60 or 70 days (to win the Sunshine Millions Classic). That was just unbelievable. Also, the three Gold Cup wins are definitely a highlight. To win just one of those would be special, but three was unreal.

JS: Part of what makes the Lava Man story so special is because he was claimed. What do you recall about that?

DO: That was all Steve (Kenly, co-owner). He deserves the credit there. In fact, I told him he was crazy at the time (laughs). He said I don't care what you say, as long as he looks good in the paddock, I want him. I was allowed to spend $62,500, but we got him for $50,000.

JS: The former owners (Lonnie Arterburn, and Eve and Kim Kuhlmann) could have become bitter over losing a horse that has earned so much, but have always handled the situation so well. That must have made the situation easier for you.

DO: They are such classy people. What also helped is that they bred him, so they gained many breeding awards and other notoriety, and they still had an interest in his success. They were proud every time he won because they broke him and developed him. They deserve much of the credit.

JS: You have had some great horses in your career. Is Lava Man the best, both in terms of desire and talent?

DO: He is certainly the best desire-wise. He is truly a remarkable horse and his consistency is what separates him. Talent-wise, I'm not sure. That's hard. But he is definitely up there. We all feel very fortunate to be a part of him.

56 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Sally F

Lava Man - you great spirit.  I will miss you so much - always looking for your next race - always following you.  You have given us all so much!  Hopefully you will be Doug O'Neils stable pony.  We can then be assured that you will be happy, content and still in the picture so we can continue to part of your life!  You are absolutely the BEST and so deeply appreciated and loved!

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!

31 Jul 2008 4:27 PM
Paula Weglarz

As Doug knows, Lava Man is a horse that captured many hearts - mostly on the West Coast, but he has his East Coasters, too.

He was a true champion, a warrior, and my kind of horse.  He gave 200% in every race, and he has earned his retirement.

I know that Doug will take great care of this old fella as he moves on into the next career in his life.

31 Jul 2008 4:35 PM
Julie L.

Lava Man, you will be greatly missed but your accomplishments will live on forever.

31 Jul 2008 5:22 PM
Tiznowbaby

I am so glad he's sound. I'd love to see him at the Kentucky Horse Park, but somehow I think he'd be happier at the track working as a stable pony. I will miss watching him run.

31 Jul 2008 5:24 PM
Cynthia B

Lava Man is the reason I fell in love with horse racing. I'll never forget the immense heart and the thrills he gave me and the many fans in the stands over and over again.  We'll all miss you.  

31 Jul 2008 5:28 PM
Rachel

Lava Man, we will so miss you. I, too, hope you get to be a stable pony for DO until you're truly old and ready for retirement at KHP.

31 Jul 2008 5:38 PM
Teaser

Lava Man, Thanks for the memories

31 Jul 2008 5:40 PM
Equine Paparazzi

I hate to be a retirement party pooper, but can anyone name one horse of ANY stature that Lava Man has beaten? Please educate me in this respect and I will humbly accept it. The Handicap Division in California hasn't been worth beans for quite awhile and Lava Man feasted on about three years of mediocre opponents. I will admit he is a very good horse, after all 7 grd. 1's, and I would have loved to have owned him, BUT he did it against a bunch of so-so horses. He would have had his head handed to him by Congaree, who beat significant horses here and back East at several distances, and who doesn't get 1/10 the credit Lava man does. And while I am at it, since I am sure to be pilloried here shortly for the blasphemy I am spewing, what was going on with that trip to Japan? Where those people crazy? What were they thinking? They probably cut a year off his career with that trip. Anyway, it is good to see they are doing the right thing.

31 Jul 2008 6:41 PM
David Wyncoop

Where to begin ....  Such a great horse, such a champion. I am an East Coaster, love Lava Man, proudly wear his hat and his picture hangs among my 42 greatest horse 8X10's of all time!  I wish him the best and I too would like to see him at the Kentucky Horse Park along with Cigar. Can we send him some treats?

31 Jul 2008 7:50 PM
katsan

I loved watching when Doug was in Ireland and cheering LM on as was the whole pub. My own Irish mother who was raised on a ranch here in the U.S. loved it. Hope he is becomes a pony, what a treat to be able to see him carry on much like Funny Cide.

31 Jul 2008 8:00 PM
Tammy

I will miss Lava Man,

But he walked off the track safe and fairly sound, And that is a winning ending.

May he have a long happy life.

31 Jul 2008 8:15 PM
phillllly sarrrr

us east coast folk loved lava man. he was one of a kind. he will surely be missed.

31 Jul 2008 8:46 PM
Lynne

Lava Man will be missed by everyone. He was truly a remarkable horse. It was his talent and stamina that got us interested in forming our racing stable.  If just one horses accomplishes a fraction of what he did we will be satisfied.  I will miss him...hope he stays with DO as his stable pony! What Great Class.

31 Jul 2008 9:26 PM
pamofsocal

i just heard the ole boy is retired.mixed feelings on that score, after ruffian i quit the racing thing just played with my horses, but lavaman caught my attention as did lost in the fog. i sort of new this was coming but i am so grateful that hes sound i prayed everytime he raced that he would finish safe 2006 was so awesome i'll never forget it. regardless of what the nay sayers say he was a greAT RACEHORSE and we look forward to seeing him in the parade, i was hoping to see him i 'm going to the breeders cup this year. have fun boy on the farm....

31 Jul 2008 9:40 PM
Mary

Happy retirement Lava Man! I'll miss watching you run, but I'm thrilled your owners & trainer are responsible people who are doing right by you. Seattle Slew and Slew City Slew are proud.

31 Jul 2008 9:45 PM
Kevin Jagoe

Yes! Lava Man had fans way up here in Canada to. He was a CHAMP. and it's sad to see him retiring, but it is time and he is in good shape. Time for him to enjoy life , HE HAS EARNED IT !

31 Jul 2008 9:47 PM
normajean81258

Calling Lava Man a Stable "Pony" just doesn't sound right!! Stable Monster is more like it! I went immediately to dougoneillracing.com and put my 2 cents in as soon as I heard the news. I'm thrilled that he will most likely be a stable pony as Funny Cide seems to be having a ball doing it. WithAnticipation is a hunt horse, at which I'm thrilled also. I just love that horse. I'm hoping Evening Attire has the same happy ending to racing when his time is up as well. Kudos to all the trainers & owners that take care of the retirees. Thanks for the Memories!!

31 Jul 2008 9:58 PM
Tiznowbaby

Equine Pap,

Here's how I feel. I could care less who he beat or didn't; I just liked him. It's a heck of an accomplishment to win grade I's on THREE surfaces, regardless of whom it was against. Look at all the angst over Curlin running turf or any of the East Coast horses coming to run synthetic. He put in a lot of effort over two solid years, and he was a heck of lot of fun to watch. I know he wasn't perfect, but I love him anyway.

31 Jul 2008 10:10 PM
nancy

Woo its wonderful to see all the love of Lava Man's fans. He is going to be missed so much its very emotional. Hope to see him at the barn as the barn pony.He loves his groom Noe and they are inseparable.  WE WILL ALWAYS HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE IN OUR HEART FOR LAVA MAN

31 Jul 2008 10:41 PM
normajean81258

Just heard from the Doug O'Neill barn, what a class group of people! They care about the horses and their welfare and have time for the betting fans... That is what helps to make a race horse a star....

31 Jul 2008 10:45 PM
Diana

What a great CAL-BRED you are, Lava Man! You thrilled this third-generation Californian every time you raced.  Your connections have done right by you.  I wish you a happy and useful retirement.  You will be remembered always as the great champion you are!

31 Jul 2008 11:48 PM
Oglala Sue

Very glad to see Lava Man retire sound.

He was, without a doubt, my favorite racehorse since Silver Charm. He truly had heart, tenacity and class for not one campaign, but several.

That horse is a rare gem and everyone connected with him should be very proud.

01 Aug 2008 12:27 AM
Wanda

Thanks Jason for asking the question. It sounds like he'll do very well as a pony, better that than running around at the farm.Horses with lots of energy must be kept busy or they will hurt themselves.

01 Aug 2008 1:03 AM
Carolchristine

What a great champion you are LAVA MAN! My husband & I loved to yell your name as you entered the stretch! We are so glad that you are retiring safely and will have a new life to enjoy! Thanks for all the great memories.

01 Aug 2008 1:37 AM
Bellwether

thank's to you old buddy & let's hope there is another one(a beautiful claimer)waiting in the wings to thrill us all...LLTK!!!

01 Aug 2008 3:21 AM
Lecy

This is for Equine Paparizza.  Let's see who did Lava Man beat. Okay, on dirt he beat a kentucky derby winner, breeders cup winner(s), Jockey Gold Cup Winner, and Brother Derek, remember him, he was the morning line favorite at the Derby.  On turf he beat Kings Drama, a grade one winner, who had just eight months earlier got beaten by Better Talk Now by just a nose in a course record time at Belmont.  He set a track record on turf at Hollywood Park of 1:44 for the mile and an eighth, not against the best of runners, but there was not another horse in the country (ANYWHERE) who could have beat him that day.  On synthetic surface, he beat graded stakes horses who had just beaten east coast runners like they where nothing.(Most of his races carrying high weight)  Now, if you want to bash his career maybe you should have studied his past performances. Are you trying to say he was just a lucky horse that for three years in a row ran against nobodies?   Well, if that is what you are saying, I have a track of land in Neverland I can sell you cheap.

You are the best Lava Man.  No one can take your three Gold Cup Wins, Your Seven grade ones all at the Classic Mile and a Quarter, nor the fact that you are the only horse in America to win Grade Ones of dirt, turf, and synthetic surface. You deserve to be a Kentucky Race Park for all you have done, so people can come see the Great One.  Enjoy your retirement, you earned it.                

01 Aug 2008 6:46 AM
kathyw

I love you and will miss you...I looked forward to seeing you every time you raced....you are a special hero ...be a good stable pony....I am so happy they retired you....I was so afraid you were going to get hurt....you have thousands and thousands of fans all over the country.....

01 Aug 2008 7:25 AM
jmewill

Bravo to you and the connections of Lava!  It takes an exteraordinary amount of class to do what you have do instead of patching him up and keeping him going.  You all deserve a giant pat on the back and I can't wait to catch Leandro out with him as a pony so I can give Lava Man a giant kiss for all the times he didn't let his fans down and even when he didn't win it usaully was for lack of trying! I remember seeing him at Del Mar in the paddock and I got close enough to see HE HAD THE LOOK OF A CHAMPION IN HIS EYE AND TRUST ME HE WILL NEVER LOSE IT! I saw the same look in Cardmania's eye.

01 Aug 2008 10:16 AM
Maggie

So sorry Lava Man is retiring!  But it feels like the right time...He was such a fun horse to follow, and there aren't many racehorses to follow for that length of time now.  So what if he didn't run well outside of Ca, and to those who say, "who did he beat?"  He was born when he was born, and beat whatever year's crop that was in So. Ca.  You race horses where they can win, and credit to Doug and owners who did try him out of state.

The best race I can remember was the call (Vic Stouffer)of his last Hollywood Gold Cup- one of the most exciting finishes in recent memory. We followed Lava from our home in No. Cal. until we moved to Kentucky last year- I wish he could have a stay at the Kentucky Horse Park with Cigar- just for awhile!  Thanks for all the fun racing Lava Man, and Doug O'Neil!

01 Aug 2008 11:05 AM
Matthew W

Lava Man's first Hol Gold Cup was one of the strongest 1 1/4's I've ever seen---that being said, he didn't beat all that much during those three years at the top of California Racing---but there's no doubting Lava Man's toughness and gameness---I loved watching him deliver the goods---that's pure class, Lava Man--thank you!!

01 Aug 2008 11:21 AM
schabelli

Lava man was a treat to watch and he helped make my pocketbook fatter. I'm just dissapointed that he didn't make it until the Breeders Cup so he could have whipped Big Brown.

Kudos for doing the right thing and retiring him sound.  

01 Aug 2008 12:42 PM
Maggie M.

Wow...I like how there is ANOTHER Maggie here.  So I'm going to change my name from originally "Maggie" (even though I've been commenting on these blogs for awhile now) to "Maggie M." or I could go back to my Internet name that I've used for several years now, to dispell any confusion.

As an East Coaster, I love this horse!  He was truly an inspiration when I devoured every ounce of information about the sport, watching his races whenever he was shown on television.  I'm glad they are retiring him sound; that's the most important thing.  Hopefully, Doug O'Neill will get his wish and have him as a stable pony.  The ol' veteran could be seen as a "mentor" for the other youngens.   =D  If he doesn't become a stable pony, I do pray that he finds a very good home and lives out the rest of his days in peace.

Lava, you have been and forever always will be the Man.

01 Aug 2008 1:09 PM
Michael P

Glad of the retirement -the ole boy deserves it.  I have tracked him ever since his 3rd place in

the Pacific Classic- He always gave whatever he had to give and more- He had a lot of heart. Horses need a job -it would be a great thing for him to go on to being a pony horse.  

01 Aug 2008 1:50 PM
Mike S

LAVA MAN is a great horse. Amongst Cal-Breds he definitely makes the top 10: (SWAPS, NATIVE DIVER, TIZNOW, LAVA MAN, ANCIENT TITLE, BEST PAL, etc). Being so good on turf and dirt he reminded me of JOHN HENRY and *COUGAR II.

I don't think it mattered that he never won, or ran well, outside California. No one asks horses who race exclusively in New York to come to California to "prove their greatness," so California horses shouldn't have to go outside their backyard to prove anything either. I have no idea why LAVA MAN never did well when he left California but, whatever the reason, he is a great horse nonetheless.

01 Aug 2008 1:56 PM
LoveMyLava

I just want to thank EVERYONE connected with this horse. They have done right by him again and again, and you leave a grateful public in the wake of this CA legend. I am sad to see him leave the racetrack, but there is no better thing than him walking off sound and historic.

It seems no final decision has been made to where Lava Man goes from here, but I sure hope he stays put in the barn  of his frien ds who love him SO much. I know Lava has fans everywhere, but he is California's horse, and nowhere will he be appreciated so much. Seven is only old for a RACEhorse with that kind of mileage, otherwise, he's just a spring chicken as horses go, and I bet he'd positively thrive as a pony in Doug O'Neill's barn! Just my .02 on that subject!

I love you, Lava...thanks for giving back the joy and passion to this old race fan's heart!!

01 Aug 2008 2:11 PM
Slew.em.All

It's time to kick-back and take it easy Lava Man,you certainly deserve it buddy!..Tho' your legacy will forever live on,your ankles have had enough of the poundings..You truly are a Classic example of the tremendous ability and heart bestowed upon you through your Grandpa,the Great Seattle Slew!

01 Aug 2008 2:24 PM
Huh

I hope that just like Funny Cide he'll become a stable pony that or he retires happy to retirement home.

01 Aug 2008 4:00 PM
Ryan

I think it's pretty arrogant to say from a talent standpoint Lava Man was up there with the best he's ever trained, referring to remarks from D.O.  How many of his other horses won three Gold Cups?

01 Aug 2008 4:54 PM
Jason Shandler

Ryan: O'Neill has trained some great horses, including Stevie Wonderboy. He's had 3 BC winners and 2 Derby starters. Plus, he trained Sky Jack who also won the Gold Cup. I don't think its arrogant. While Lava Man was very good, he never accomplished much outside of California. That isn't taking anything away from him, but some of O'Neill's other horses have probably had more talent.

01 Aug 2008 5:12 PM
BetIdaho

Cheers to Lava Man and his connections!

LavaMan is the prime example of how a horse can draw people to the game... and, keep people in the game!

LavaMan will never be forgotten in California or in Idaho for that matter.

LavaMan - thanks for the memories!

01 Aug 2008 5:28 PM
Equine Paparazzi

Lecy, nice post. way to come back at me.  OK, he beat giacomo and brother derek. I can't take anything away from Giacomo but brother derek was pretty much of an underachiever after he won the Santa Anita Derby. King's Drama was a good turf horse, so I can see that.

I will admit that Lava Man wasn't just lucky and he did beat almost everyone that was in the gate against him. That's all you ask of a horse, but he was unfortunate in that the horses he faced, for the most part, weren't all that good. I doubt he wins three straight Gold Cups against quality horses. I doubt he wins two.

And he got beat everytime he stepped on an airplane, and he was usually beaten in a significantly discouraging manner to almost everyone who saw it, except for perhaps his owners, who kept going back to that well one more time.

Take away the Japan trip, which was entirely unnecessary, and this horse would be running in the Pacific Classic in a couple of weeks and the BC Classic in a couple of months. He wouldn't need an airplane to get from Hollywood to Santa Anita.

Hey, somebody on this blog needs to bring a dose of reality to this discussion.

Lava Man is a good horse who beat consistently mediocre fields and was managed by owners who couldn't see that he was aviation-averse. There, I said it. Now hate me. Good night, ladies and gents..

see y'all at Del Mar tomorrow...

01 Aug 2008 5:29 PM
Shelley

Lava Man, safe and sound, that's the main thing. But I will miss you.

01 Aug 2008 5:48 PM
Wasn't Bad

Lave Man was a fun horse to watch.  I can't put him up there with the great horses I have ever seen because he never beat any real good horses and he ran such duds when he left California.  Sorry to say, but that will matter when it comes to Hall of Fame consideration.

What I do remember the most about Lava man is I cashed one of my biggest winners ever when he finished of all places second.  I hit a huge exacta in the Cal Cup Classic when he lost to Cozy Guy who I think was 21-1 and ridden by Corey Nakatani and Lava Man was a neck back in second I think at about 20-1.

Who knew what was to come later on for Lava Man.

Good call retiring the him.  He didn't have anything left to give on the track.

01 Aug 2008 6:01 PM
Amber

I think some people have kinda lost the point. Great horse or not he was a claiming horse that made over 5 million. If all horses could start from such a humble begining and make that kind of profit a whole lot more people would be into race horses. I live in the mid-west and I think he was a great horse anyway you want to look at it, and even though I could visit him if he came to KHP, I think he should stay with DO, maybe when he's 15 or so he can truly retire at kentucky.

01 Aug 2008 8:53 PM
ctgreyhound

Can there be another horse with the class & tenacity of Lava Man?  This horse has so much magnetism.  He has been the catalyst to draw people to the sport.  It's wonderful to know that in the near future he will continue in this role as a stable pony.  It would definitely be the public's loss if he disappeared from sight, never to be seen by his numerous fans again.  We look forward to his return!

01 Aug 2008 9:47 PM
Sweet Defense (Fr)

Stevie Wonderboy, a great horse? Sky Jack a great horse? I can't believe those two are considered great when Lava isn't. That comment by DO bugged me also - this is the horse that to a large extent made him, if for no other reason than his longevity at the top. No, he didn't beat a Triple Crown winner, that would be difficult given the lack of one. He beat whoever showed up, giving at times significant weight, and he did it consistently. He set a turf track record, and he earned a 120 Beyer in his first Gold Cup win. Big Brown sure hasn't been able to accomplish that, yet he's being called great (but who has he really beaten??). Curlin - who has he beaten this year? The best horses he's beaten this year are probably Well Armed and Better Talk Now - and Better Talk Now has lost a step or two.

No, he might not get into the Hall of Fame, while flashier horses who started a few times will get in there. It does seem to have hurt Sky Beauty that she couldn't win outside of New York - she's another one who definitely deserves to be in there over some of those already in it.

In the end, Lava Man represented the professional race horse, the kind that often seems to be lost. He could run on anything as long as it was in CA, from different kinds of synthetics to rock hard dirt and turf. He earned his following the hard way, and he brightened his fans day every time he showed up.

My only regret is tha living in Texas I was not able to see him run in person. He's a credit to Slew City Slew and Seattle Slew, a throwback to the horses of the past, tough and tenacious with a huge heart and immense talent. Hope he has a long and happy retirement, wherever would make him the happiest and where his fans can enjoy him. Thanks to his owners and trainer for taking such good care of him.

01 Aug 2008 11:48 PM
JordanA

Equine Paparazzi,

You made your own argument against yourself when you dissed LM then said 7 G1's you'd like to own him,

You see the $ signs only so the rest of your arguments are moot. nuff said.

02 Aug 2008 10:16 AM
Bryce Be Quick

Equine Paparazzi-

You are not being a party pooper-- your points well taken with respect to how a Cal-bred simply did not perform when shipped outside his native turf (and I should quickly add dirt and synthetics, seeing how he is the only horse to win G1's on all three surfaces).

That said, look at the other posts-- as Ogala Sue sustinctly notes, Lava Man a "rare gem". Like another horse closely connected to the West Coast, Seabiscuit, Lava Man transcends his considerable track accomplishments and is already the stuff of legend. Who will forget the 2005 Pacific Classic when after finishing a very game third, he had to be vanned off the track simply because, as it turned out, he was totally exhausted from the effort.

That friends, is what I look for in a horse first: character and heart. Lava Man has both in abundance and like very few others I have been honored to see (the recently retired Showing Up, trained by Barclay Tagg and owned by Gretchen and Roy Jackson, another one cut from this mold, as is a more contemporary horse to Lava Man still running himself, GH Motion's magnificent turf specialist, Better Talk Now).

I always suspected it might have Lava Man's dam, Ll'l Ms. Leonard, who so stamped him (not that his sire, Slew City Slew, without run in his own right). My theory is now being tested, as Lava Man's half sister, Lava Girl, by Purge (Pulpit's kid) foaled in 2007. Maybe she will simply be the claimer Lava Man once was?

Lava Man more than worthy of a berth at the KY Horse Park, but given his racing record, will likely be much happier staying in CA and eventually returning to Hollywood Park. What a warrior.

Heck, Doug O'Neil himself has had more talented horses in his stable, but I dare say Lava Man is THE horse of his lifetime.

02 Aug 2008 10:37 AM
Wanda

Enough with the negitive comments about Lava Man. Who cares who he beat or didn't beat. The horse ground out 5 mill off a 50G claim, that's the story of the century. If you've ever claimed a horse your happy if you move him up a notch never mind a 100 notches. Let's find something else to tear apart besides a very very nice,classy racehorse.

02 Aug 2008 12:01 PM
katsan

Wanda, I think we only had one negative comment on here. Aren't papparazzi considered very negatively to begin with, equine or human. I personally love Lava Man and most of his connections (not so much Corey) but especially love my fellow Irishman Doug and of course groom NOE GARCIA, bless his heart.

02 Aug 2008 4:45 PM
Linda O.

I love you Lava Man! You are a true champion.  I have followed your great career over the past few years.  You have given so much to horse racing.  I am happy to hear you are healthy and sound so you can enjoy many more years at the track as a lead pony!  

03 Aug 2008 8:54 AM
Samantha P.

I think we should all stop comparing what he has or hasn't done. Like so many have already mentioned, he was a 50g claimer that earned over $5m. I would call that pretty inspirational. We need more horses like him that race beyond their 3yo year and give racing fans something to cheer for and look forward to. I think he's a pretty classy horse who should be remembered more for what he DID do than what he didn't.

03 Aug 2008 8:46 PM
MerryWriter

For a horse that loves to race, and if Lava Man is a "pony," won't he get confused and think he's the one who's suppose to be going into the gate?  How does this work?  

Whatever - I just want him to have a happy life.  Too bad he's a gelding, was he really that bad of a boy?

Mr. O'Neil and owners, you should know Lava Man is NOT just a California horse, Southerners love im too, thanks to TVG where we got to see a lot of him.

03 Aug 2008 10:57 PM
MerryWriter

For the guy who said Lava Man was not a great horse:

Maybe he wasn't the likes of Secretariat or Man of War, but Lava Man was a Work Horse, the likes of that other California and national favorite, Seabiscuit.  If there is one thing Americans appreciate it is a good work ethic, and Lava Man worked his way to being a multi-millionaire.  Good for him and good for me, his fan, watching him do it.

03 Aug 2008 11:19 PM
Wanda

MerryWriter: to answer your question they will give him "down" time at the farm,take him off all the feed he's been getting and inside of a year if he's "jellin" they will start riding him with a stock saddle.Sometimes you can start right away.I had one who ran on a Saturday and schooled at the gate 6 days later and post paraded the next day. He was a nice horse at one time held the 5 furlong track record.Depends on their attitude and how they take the change in roles.That horse I schooled in a week was soaking wet behind the gate the first time,and couldn't have cared less after that.

05 Aug 2008 1:07 AM
joe

I admire any horse who can switch from such great success on dirt to win on grass.  Glad he's retiring healthy.  Here's to a long retirement, and here's to Seattle Slew and Slew City Slew.

05 Aug 2008 2:36 PM

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