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Jun 29, 2007

Lava Man goes for third straight Hollywood Gold Cup


Inglewood, CA (Sports Network) - Two-time defending winner Lava Man is back to retain his title in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on Saturday. The six-year- old can join Native Diver as the only three-time winner of the Gold Cup.

The 1 1/4 mile race has attracted nine older thoroughbreds.

Lava Man, owned by STD Racing and Jason Wood, will start from post eight with regular rider Corey Nakatani in the saddle. Trained by Doug O'Neill, Lava Man is coming off a second place finish in the Charlie Whittingham Handicap on the turf to After Market.

In his career Lava Man has won 16 of 39 starts for more than $4.7 million. This year he won the Sunshine Millions Turf and repeated as champ in the Santa Anita Handicap.

Last year he became the first thoroughbred to sweep the three big handicap races in Southern California in the same year, Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic. Lava Man's lone loss in 2006 was a seventh place finish to Invasor in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Native Dancer won the Hollywood Gold Cup from 1965 to 1967 and along with Lava Man are the only two-time winners of the race. Native Dancer also was third to Colorado King in the 1964 Gold Cup.

Molengao, second in the Santa Anita Handicap, returns to face Lava Man, Coming off a victory in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap, Molengao will be ridden by Victor Espinoza from post five.

"We need to beat Lava Man," said trainer Paulo Lobo. "I have a lot of respect for him the way he came back (finishing second in the Whittingham Handicap)."

Owned by TNT Stud, Molengao has won five of 15 career starts for $588,477. Earlier this year he won the San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita. Last year he was sixth to Lava Man in the Whittingham Handicap.

"He's six, but I think he's improving," said Lobo. "He's home here."

Former Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Wilko will take another at shot at picking up his first victory since his 2004 upset win. Wilko will start from post six with Joseph Talamo getting his first ride on the five-year-old.

Owned by J. Paul Reddam and Susan Roy, Wilko has earned better than $2.4 million in his career with three wins in 28 starts. Craig Dollase trains Wilko who has also posted 10 third place finishes along with three runner-up results.

He was seventh in his last race, the Californian at Hollywood Park. Talamo will the fifth different jockey to pilot Wilko in as many races. Last year Wilko was third to Lava Man in the Santa Anita Handicap. He followed that effort with a third to Electrocutionist in the Dubia World Cup, However, Wilko was placed second ahead of Brass Hat.

Completing the field for the Hollywood Gold Cup in post position order are My Creed, A. P. Xcellent, Saint Stephen, Porfido, A. P. Arrow and Big Booster.

The Gold Cup has a scheduled post-time of 7:50 p.m. (et).

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