07/30/2007 11:00PM

Donations pour in for Garcia


DEL MAR, Calif. - Noe Garcia, the groom for Lava Man who lost his left arm in a car accident last week, has been released from Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla and is back home in Los Angeles, but still faces months of rehabilitation. In an effort to help him, several people - including trainer Doug O'Neill, his brother, Dennis, Lava Man's owners Steve Kenly and Jason Wood, and owner Paul Reddam - have organized a fundraiser for Garcia designed to raise money to help him acquire and learn to use a prosthetic arm.

In addition, Dennis O'Neill has set up the website lavamanshero.com, through which fans can donate to Garcia to help his rehabilitation.

"I've been getting checks from a lot of people," O'Neill said Tuesday. "Some lady we don't even know sent a check for $1,000. Between Reddam and Lava Man's owners, we're already up to nearly $60,000. We need to get to at least $100,000 for the prosthetic arm."

The fundraiser, a faux poker tournament in which contestants will play for donated prizes so as not to violate any state gambling laws, will be held at the Del Mar Hilton - across the street from the track - on the evening of Aug. 16, three days before Lava Man is scheduled to defend his title in the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic, O'Neill said.

O'Neill, who assists his brother, said that prizes and silent auction items have been donated by a number of sports personalities, including Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca, who has had horses over the years with the O'Neill barn, and Mets pitcher Tom Glavine.

On Tuesday, Deacon Arnie Lopez from the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America said he was scheduled to visit Garcia at his home to assist, too. Lopez ministers on the Southern California circuit.

Garcia, 39, was injured when a driver who admitted he had been drinking hit his van on Interstate 5 near Del Mar while Garcia was traveling to work in the early morning hours of July 23.

Price Tag topweight in Mabee

Price Tag was assigned 121 pounds, one more than unbeaten Nashoba's Key, for the Grade 1, $400,000 John C. Mabee Handicap for female turf runners on Saturday at Del Mar.

Price Tag, who won the Matriarch Stakes last fall and most recently was third in the Cash Call Mile at Hollywood Park, is one of two horses trainer Bobby Frankel is expected to run in the Mabee, along with Precious Kitten.

In addition to Nashoba's Key (Joe Talamo the rider), Precious Kitten (Rafael Bejarano), and Price Tag (Alex Solis), others expected for the 1o1/8-mile Mabee are Andrea (Michael Baze), Dancing Edie (Corey Nakatani), Memorette (Mike Smith), and Take the Ribbon (Victor Espinoza).

On Sunday, Balance is expected to head a small field in the Grade 2, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack for older fillies and mares. Balance was assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the Hirsch.

Her rivals are expected to include Bai and Bai, River Savage, Somethinaboutlaura, and the 3-year-old filly Tough Tiz's Sis.

Options plentiful for Fly Dorcego

Trainer Paulo Lobo thinks he has several options for the Brazilian import Fly Dorcego, who came off an 11-month layoff to romp to a four-length victory in his United States debut going 6 1/2 furlongs last Saturday on Polytrack. Fly Dorcego was a Group 2 winner, and was Group 1-placed, in his native land, but went off the longest shot in a 10-horse field at 32-1.

"He's a very nice horse," Lobo said. "Horses from South America, you never know how they will do first time, but he had been training very well."

Fly Dorcego had finished 15th in his final start in Brazil, and was adding Lasix for his first start here. But Lobo said not to draw any conclusions about bleeding being to blame for his poor final start in Brazil. In fact, Lobo said Fly Dorcego ran poorly because "he lost a shoe breaking from the gate."

"I love the way he did one turn only, and he runs on grass also," Lobo said. "I think I have a lot of options for the future."

Lobo said his best horse, Molengao, is "on course" for the Pacific Classic on Aug. 19.

Izarra sharp in debut

Izarra, a granddaughter of Bayakoa, turned in a sharp debut performance on Sunday, beating seven other maiden 2-year-old fillies by 3 3/4 lengths at odds of nearly 17-1 for trainer Ron McAnally.

Izarra, who is by Distorted Humor, was joined in the winner's circle by tennis star Martina Hingis, who was in town for a tournament at the nearby La Costa Resort and Spa. McAnally said Izarra likely earned a berth in the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3.

"It was a big race," McAnally said. "We felt she could run, but the way she did it, and being a first-time starter, was impressive. She had a wide trip. She's a high-strung filly, but Bayakoa was, too. We could hardly get the saddle on her."

Drill Down on track for Futurity

The Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day, Sept. 5, is "on the radar," trainer Mike Machowsky said, for the 2-year-old El Corredor colt Drill Down, who defeated maidens on Saturday.

"He was very impressive," Machowsky said. "He's always trained like a real nice horse. I was nervous for this race, because I wanted him to live up to it."

Machowsky paid Drill Down a high compliment, comparing him to the best horse Machowsky has trained, Santa Anita Handicap winner Southern Image.

"He reminds me of Southern Image because he does everything so easily," Machowsky said. "He's so good mentally. Physically, he's kind of ahead of his time. Distance should be no problem. I like having five weeks until the futurity. He'll be fresh. And I haven't seen anything I'd have to be ducking."

There were 12 horses in Drill Down's race. Only three had raced previously, and two of them were in the exacta. It was a testament to the fitness needed to compete on Del Mar's demanding Polytrack surface.

"Having a race is a big advantage with these 2-year-olds going six furlongs," Machowsky said. "You need at least one three-quarter work, and probably a little more than that."

Passified pointed to Oaks

Trainer Jim Cassidy said that Passified, who captured the San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old turf fillies on Saturday, would be pointed for the Grade 1, $400,000 Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 18.

Passified is the latest nugget Cassidy has mined from the fall Tattersalls sale in Newmarket, England. His best finds there have been the stakes-winning mares Ticker Tape and Katdogawn. Last fall, Cassidy bought five horses there. Thus far, four have won, including stakes winner Golden Balls.

"I've been able to find at least one serious horse every year," said Cassidy, who has been attending that sale for more than a decade.

Passified earned $90,000 on Saturday, of which Cassidy gets 10opercent. But he didn't expect to get all the money.

"My wife," he said, referring to Melanie, who is also Passified's exercise rider, "has a tendency to go shopping at the eighth pole."

* Trainer Bruce Headley was fined $300 by Del Mar's stewards for failure to report the gelding of Alpine Nugget before that horse ran in the fourth race at Hollywood Park on June 15.