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Jul 13, 2007

Learning about Native Diver

By: By Don Agriss - Horse Racing Editor, SPORTS NETWORK

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The name Native Diver was in prominent display last weekend in connection to Lava Man's try at a third straight win in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Native Diver accomplished the feat from 1965 through 1967.

Forty years ago Native Diver was the dominant thoroughbred in California. Beginning with his four-year-old season he won such prominent stakes races as the Golden Gate, Inglewood and San Diego Handicaps. Add victories in the San Francisco Mile, Inglewood Handicap and another San Diego Handicap.

Learning about a racehorse that I never saw run live is a fascinating effort. The 1960's was a transitional decade for racing. It was beginning to lose its popularity to football and basketball.

Native Diver was owned by Mr. & Mrs. L.K. Shapiro who also were his breeders. Buster Millerick was the trainer and was ridden, primarily, by Jerry Lambert. Bill Shoemaker was aboard Native Diver in winning the 1963 San Francisco Mile, four years before a second Mile win at Bay Meadows.

It was his six-year-old season that stands out as possibly his best. He won the won Hollywood Gold Cup for the first time followed by wins in the Los Angeles, San Carlos, San Diego, American, Albany and Palos Verdes Handicaps. In 1965 Native Diver won seven of 10 starts for $241,650.

Native Diver followed 1965 with four wins in 12 starts for $205,750 in 1966. He won the Hollywood Gold Cup for the second straight year followed by victories in the Inglewood, San Pasqual and San Bernardino Handicaps. Native Diver won a total of three Inglewood Handicaps.

His final racing season in 1967 produced $258,100 in earnings while winning six of 13 starts as an eight-year-old. Native Diver claimed his third straight Hollywood Gold Cup along with wins in the Los Angeles, San Carlos, Albany, Del Mar Handicaps and another San Francisco Mile.

The Eclipse Awards had not yet been introduced. the Daily Racing Form and the Thoroughbred Racing Association each awarded year-end honors.

Native Diver was denied seasonal championships by both groups. He became the first California-bred to earn $1 million dollars. His final earnings were $1,026,500 with 37 wins in 81 career starts.

Native Diver came down with a case of colic prior to the 1967 Bay Meadows Handicap and died from a twisted intestine. His remains were buried beneath a monument at Hollywood Park.

As a gelding Native Diver had no progeny. However, with Lava Man equaling his three straight Hollywood Gold Cup wins, Native Diver once again got a chance to come alive for a new crop of racing fans.

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