11/24/2006 12:00AM

First day back for Lava Man


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Lava Man, the leading older horse in California this year, resumed racetrack training Friday, nearly three weeks after suffering his first defeat of 2007 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

Lava Man jogged on Hollywood Park’s main track after nearly 10 days of tack-walking at trainer Doug O’Neill’s barn.

O’Neill said that Lava Man’s behavior in recent days forced him to change his training schedule for November.

“I was going to wait another week to take him to the track, but he’s coming out of his skin,” O’Neill said. “Once he gets into training and now that he’s in his normal stall, he’ll quiet down.”

Owned by STD Racing and Jason Wood, Lava Man finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4. He was third for the first six furlongs but faded on the final turn and finished 15 3/4 lengths behind race winner Invasor. It was his first loss in eight starts this year.

Lava Man, 5, has won 14 of 34 starts and $3,804,706. O’Neill is pointing Lava Man for the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf over 1 1/8 miles for California-breds and Florida-breds at Santa Anita on Jan. 27.

Lava Man won the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic on dirt at Santa Anita last January in his first start of the year. The 2007 Sunshine Millions Classic is being run at Gulfstream Park, and O’Neill said he would prefer to race Lava Man in Southern California.

Lava Man was the dominant horse in California this year, becoming the first horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic in the same year.

Mullins prefers also-eligible horse

Sunday’s 10-race program features a $1 million guaranteed pick six pool for the fifth through 10th races. One of the more puzzling races in the sequence is the seventh race, a maiden race for 2-year-olds over 6 1/2 furlongs.

The race has oversubscribed, with 16 entrants, and will be limited to 14 starters. Of the 14 drawn into the main body of the race, nine are first-time starters.

Not all the trainers with first-time starters feel their runners are ready to win their debuts.

Trainer Jeff Mullins said that Saintly Son, a colt by Deputy Commander, will “need a race.” Mullins said he is hoping that a scratch occurs before Saturday’s scratch time, allowing Black Hills to draw into the race from the also-eligible list. Black Hills was second over this track on Nov. 5.

“The one on the also-eligible list is the one I wanted in,” Mullins said.

Saintly Son has drawn post 5, and the four horses to his inside are all first-time starters – Tomcat Row, Augment, Legate, and Another Brother.

Augment, by Aptitude, is trained by Paddy Gallagher, who is taking a cautious approach to Sunday’s race.

“He’s a bit green and has a bit to learn,” Gallagher said.

O’Neill, who trains Another Brother, is more bullish. A colt by Outofthebox, Another Brother has been working regularly at Hollywood Park for the last month.

“He can run a little bit,” O’Neill said. “To me, he’s a router, a tall lanky horse. He’ll do better going two turns. But he’s gifted enough to do well first time out.”

O’Neill said Another Brother worked with a team of four horses from the gate last Monday and rallied from off the pace after a strong break to finish well.

Of the other first-time starters, Tomcat Row and Lucky Will have worked quickly. Tomcat Row has the quickest work over a half-mile – 47.60 seconds – at Santa Anita on Nov. 13. Lucky Will had two bullet workouts at Santa Anita in October before being moved to Hollywood Park in November to continue his preparation.

All of the pick six races have fields of 11 or more entrants. The bet begins in the fifth race, a maiden claimer. The other races are the $500,000 Hollywood Derby, the sprint for maidens, the $500,000 Matriarch Stakes, a sprint for $20,000 claimers, and an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Baltas serving suspension

Trainer Richard Baltas, who has a small stable in Southern California, is serving a 15-day suspension issued by Bay Meadows stewards after one of his horses tested positive for hydroxyzine and cetirizine last February.

Magic Destiny, who finished first in a $25,000 claiming race at Bay Meadows on Feb. 4, 2006, tested positive for the prohibited substances. She earned $7,700 of the $14,000 purse, but the purse has been redistributed, according to the California Horse Racing Board.

Baltas’s suspension began Nov. 19 and runs through Dec. 3. In addition, he was fined $2,500 for the medication violations.

Warning Zone takes Generous

Warning Zone rallied wide through the stretch to win the first division of Friday’s Grade 3, $750,000 Generous Stakes, avoiding the trouble that plagued several runners in the final furlong.

Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Warning Zone ($6.60) ran a mile on turf in 1:36.59, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Unusual Suspect. The Generous Stakes, for 2-year-olds, was Warning Zone’s first stakes win. He has won 2 of 4 starts and $100,100 for Rising Sun Racing Stable and trainer John Sadler.

Private Wind finished third, but was disqualified and placed seventh. Private Wind was cited for causing interference in the stretch and was placed behind Quietly Mine, who was forced to check in the stretch.

Optari, the 2-1 favorite, was promoted from sixth to fifth. He was blocked behind horses at a pivotal point in the stretch.

Aaron Gryder, who rode Man to Man, claimed foul against the winner for alleged interference in the stretch, but the objection was dismissed by track stewards.