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Dec 18, 2009

A longer wait for Lava Man return

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The much anticipated return to the races of eight-year-old gelding Lava Man was aborted Saturday due to inclement weather. The three-time winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup was held out of the Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park because of a wet track.

"There is no urgency to run," said trainer Doug O'Neill. "We've been waiting a long time, now we will wait until Santa Anita."

Lava Man has been in training since late summer after being retired with health issues. Owned by STD Racing and Jason Wood, the gelding had made his last start in the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in July, 2008.

The veteran runner's last victory was the history making win in the 2007 Gold Cup. That win equaled Native Diver's (1965-67) three straight Gold Cup victories.

"It's nice to dream about a fourth Gold Cup next summer, but for now I'm just so excited to have him back," ONeill said recently.

In 2006 Lava Man swept the three major handicap races in southern California, Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic. He won the Santa Anita Handicap again in 2007.

A crowd favorite, Lava Man has won 17 of 46 career races for of $5,268,706. He has been versatile on all racing surfaces, winning on dirt, turf and artificial surfaces.

Stem cell treatments was an important aspect of Lava Man's rehabilitation.

"We started with an MRI, and then Lava Man underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove fragments in his ankles," explained Dr. Doug Herthel. "He underwent five separate stem cell treatments starting about a year ago and ending in September.

"We got stem cells from bone marrow in his sternum and did the therapy to help restore the health of his cartilage. We saw improvement right away. He's been sound for the last nine months."

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