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Aug 17, 2007

Lava Man back to defend Pacific Classic


Del Mar, CA (Sports Network) - Lava Man, winner of last year's Pacific Classic, is back to defend his title in Sunday's 1 1/4 mile race at Del Mar. The six-year-old will take on 12 rivals, with the winner automatically qualifying for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park on Saturday, October 27.

Lava Man, owned by STD Racing Stable and Jason Wood, can duplicate his 2006 achievement with wins in the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic. He has already won the first two races this year after becoming the first horse to sweep all three last year.

The five-year-old gelding has won 17 of 40 career starts and earned over $5.1 million. This year he has won three of five races for $1,385,000.

Corey Nakatani will ride for trainer Doug O'Neill.

"I ride a special horse and I ride with a lot of confidence," Nakatani said. "Hopefully, I can get the job done again. As for whether it's a special race, yeah, it is the Pacific Classic, but from a rider's standpoint, I see it as a matter of getting in position and working to win."

Santa Anita Derby winner Tiago is facing older thoroughbreds for the first time. The three-year-old is coming off a victory in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park and will again have Mike Smith in the saddle. Smith won this race in 2002 with Came Home.

"Winning everyday races is important," noted Smith. "Putting in your time and getting the best effort out of each horse you ride is important. But when you're fortunate enough to jump into that kind of class and win that kind of race, that stuff goes down in history. You forget about your everyday races, but you don't forget about your Pacific Classics, Santa Anita Derbys, Kentucky Derbys, Breeders' Cups, Belmonts."

Tiago is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss and trained by John Shirreffs. The colt followed his win in the Santa Anita Derby with a seventh in the Kentucky Derby and a third in the Belmont Stakes. This year he has earned $809,750 with three wins in six starts.

Sun Boat will attempt to follow his win in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar with a victory on Sunday. Another five-year-old gelding, Sun Boat has gone from claiming races to success in the handicap division. He missed by a nose in the Californian to Buzzards Bay.

Mike Mitchell trains Sun Boat for owners Bongo Racing Stable, David Capen and Bob Tjosvold. The former claimer has won four of 12 career starts for $314,345, $255,100 this year. Del Mar's leading jockey Michael Baze returns to ride Sun Boat.

Mitchell will also have Big Booster in the Classic. Big Booster was third to Lava Man in the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Here is the complete field: A.P. Xcellent, Victor Espinoza; Albertus Maximus, Joe Talamo; Arson Squad, Alex Solis; Awesome Gem, David Flores; Big Booster, Garrett Gomez; Hello Sunday, Brice Blanc; Lava Man, Corey Nakatani; Porfido, Joel Rosario; Salty Humor, Jon Court; Student Council, Richard Migliore; Sun Boat, Michael Baze; Tiago, Mike Smith, and Time Squared, Julien Leparoux.

Post-time for the Pacific Classic is 7:45 p.m. (et) and will be televised on ESPN2.

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