02/24/2007 1:00AM

Lava Man gets 124 for Big Cap


ARCADIA, Calif. - Lava Man, the leading older horse in California, has been assigned 124 pounds for Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, a race he won in 2006.

An 11-time stakes winner, Lava Man will spot his probable rivals from seven to 10 pounds in the Grade 1 race over 1 1/4 miles.

"I think he's a deserving highweight," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "Now, he needs to run to it. The pressure is on, but he seems to rise to it. Hopefully, he can do that Saturday."

Last year, Lava Man carried 120 pounds in the Big Cap. Since then, the 6-year-old Lava Man has won six stakes, including three Grade 1's.

Lava Man is expected to have nine rivals in the Big Cap, seven of whom are graded stakes winners.

Arson Squad, the winner of the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on Feb. 3, is closest to Lava Man in the weights, at 117 pounds. He is followed by Awesome Gem, Ball Four, Brother Derek, and Molengao, at 116 pounds; Boboman, McCann's Mojave, and Spring at Last, at 115 pounds; and El Roblar, at 114 pounds.