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Oct 06, 2006

Lava Man faces six in Goodwood Handicap


Arcadia, CA (Sports Network) - Leading older thoroughbred Lava Man will be the probable morning line favorite for Saturday's $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita Park. The 1 1/8 mile race is a tune-up for the Breeders' Cup Classic in four weeks at Churchill Downs.

Trained by Doug O’Neill, Lava Man is undefeated in six starts this year, all in California and has earned $2.4 million. He became the first horse to sweep the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic in the same year.

Lava Man will carry 126 pounds, including jockey Corey Nakatani, eight pounds more than Giacomo. The five-year-old gelding will start from post 4 in the seven horse field.

"I think the owner was a little upset about the weights, just because of the spreads," said Dennis O'Neill, brother of the trainer. "But I think it's an honor. It's unbelievable to have a horse weighted that high. He just won three Grade I's in a row so it's hard not to agree with it. But he's doing well. He'll run his race. The weight spread won't be an excuse."

Nakatani has aboard Lava Man the last seven starts and understands the horse extremely well.

"I let him do what he wants to do and stay out of his way," Nakatani said about Lava Man. "You can take the race to him and he can pick it up and keeps running. Those are the kind you want. He's probably the best that I've ridden."

Giacomo, last year's Kentucky Derby winner, will break from post 2 with Mike Smith in the saddle. The four-year-old has just one win since the Run for the Roses, taking this year's San Diego Handicap.

Owned by Mr. and Mrs Jerry Moss and Frank Stronach, Giacomo has earned more than $2.2 in his career with three wins in 14 starts. In his last start he finished fifth in the Pacific Classic behind Lava Man.

"I thought Preachinatthebar would be in front in the Pacific Classic, but it didn't happen," trainer John Shirreffs said. "My horse needs a good, strong pace."

Preachinatthebar, Brother Derek and Lava Man are all expected to challenge for the early lead.

The complete field for the Goodwood in post position order are Romeo Plus, Giacomo, Super Frolic, Lava Man, Preachinatthebar, Magnum and Brother Derek.

The Goodwood has a scheduled post-time of 6:17 p.m. (et) and will broadcast on ESPN2.

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