05/31/2007 11:00PM

Lava Man gets back to work

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Lava Man and Obrigado left for Dubai in mid-March as early season major stakes winners seeking international glory. They will start in Saturday's $300,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park in an effort to restore their reputations.

Lava Man, winner of the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March, finished last of 16 in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free over about 1 1/8 miles on turf on March 31. Obrigado, winner of the Grade 2 San Luis Obispo Handicap in February, finished 13th in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic over about 1 1/2 miles on turf.

They are two of the leading contenders in the Grade 1 Whittingham, which is run over 1 1/4 miles on turf. The other probable starters are After Market, Lang Field, On the Acorn, and Red Fort. On the Acorn won the San Juan Capistrano and Jim Murray handicaps this spring.

Lava Man worked six furlongs in 1:14 on Friday, the second fastest of 15 recorded works at the distance.

"He galloped out a mile and a quarter in a pretty good clip," trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Lava Man won the Whittingham and three other Grade 1 races last year. O'Neill is optimistic that the Whittingham will not tax Lava Man in his comeback.

"The one thing about the turf races, especially the turf marathons, is that they turn it into a half-mile dash," O'Neill said. "It's not like you have to be involved gate to wire, all the way around."

Obrigado was considered for the Murray last month until trainer Neil Drysdale decided to give him more time between starts.

"He was quite stiff after the trip" to Dubai, Drysdale said. "In the last 10 days, he started to do well."

Dancing General hits temporary rail

A section of temporary turf course rail that was placed farther out onto the course than other sections to cover a wet portion of the course nearly caused an accident in Thursday's first race when favorite Dancing General struck the inside rail and nearly fell.

The temporary rail sections were placed at uneven positions from the permanent inside rail because of a "damp spot" on the first turn, according to track vice president Eual Wyatt. He said the rail was moved out "to guide horses around" the area. Wyatt said he was not sure if a faulty sprinkler had caused the damp spot. No rain has fallen here in weeks.

The rail was adjusted after the race and did not pose a problem to the runners in the seventh race, the only other turf route on the program.

Dancing General recovered to finish second, a nose behind Nakaba, but the incident angered trainer Rafael Becerra, who said Dancing General could have been injured.

Dancing General was racing in fourth along the rail on the first turn when she struck the rail and stumbled badly. The two fillies racing in front of Dancing General - Sweet Belle and Velvet Moonlite - did not hit the rail.

After the race, two turf course employees were seen adjusting the temporary rails, which were 20 feet from their permanent inside position.

"It wasn't the way it was supposed to be," Becerra said. "The whole thing was messed up."

Dancing General, who was ridden by Richard Migliore, raced in last down the backstretch and rallied to reach contention in the final quarter-mile. As of Friday, the 5-year-old mare showed no problems.

"She walked fine," Becerra said. "She's not lame or anything. That's a good sign."

Don'tsellmeshort back from layoff

Don'tsellmeshort, a three-time stakes winner in 2003, makes his first start since January 2005 in Sunday's first race, an allowance over 6 1/2 furlongs.

A winner of 4 of 18 starts and $402,365, Don'tsellmeshort has been sidelined by two injuries, trainer Dan Hendricks said. A 6-year-old, Don'tsellmeshort was initially sidelined with a saucer fracture and was nearly ready for a return to racing when he suffered a strained ligament.

The lengthy layoff has left Hendricks unsure what to expect from the normally speedy Don'tsellmeshort.

"The track hasn't been real kind to front-runners," he said. "He's always been a front-runner and how the track will play is anyone's guess."

Owned by Cecil Peacock, Don'tsellmeshort was considered for stud duty while he was away from racing, Hendricks said.

"He didn't get enough interest at stud, so we decided to give him a comeback," Hendricks said.

Sunday's field includes Gotaghostofachance, winner of the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap at Belmont Park in 2005, and Bold Chieftain, a stakes winner at Golden Gate Fields last October.

Crossing the Line targets American

Crossing the Line, winner of his U.S. debut in a six-furlong optional claimer on turf Thursday, may return in the $250,000 American Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf on June 30, trainer John Sadler said.

Bred in New Zealand, Crossing the Line ($6) showed an impressive rally to win Thursday's fifth race in 1:07.98, closing from last in the final quarter-mile to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

Crossing the Line has been in the United States for three months. He has won 3 of 4 starts. He arrived at the same time as the Australian import Parmar Day, who won his U.S. debut in the Bullet Stakes last month.

"He worked with Parmar Day and he was always going the better of the two," Sadler said of Crossing the Line. "I thought [Thursday's race] might be a little too short for him. He's a middle-distance horse."

Later on the program, Andrea, another New Zealand-bred making her first start in this country, won a one-mile allowance race on turf. Andrea, a 6-year-old mare trained by Roger Stein, has won 6 of 38 starts.

Michael Baze extends jockey lead

Jockey Michael Baze won four races Thursday, extending his lead in the jockey standings as the meeting neared the halfway point.

Baze has won 35 races, and through Thursday had a six-race lead on 17-year-old Joe Talamo. David Flores is third with 20.

Thursday, Baze won the second aboard Deputy Lad ($6), the third aboard Lady in Love ($11.20), the fourth on Bullysima ($14), and the eighth on Livia La Vida Loca ($14.60). None of them was favored.

Baze is seeking his first riding title. The meeting concludes July 15.

Trainer Patterson dies at 67

William F. Patterson, who trained in California and Mexico until the mid-1980s, died of natural causes in Harbor City, Calif., on May 26, according to his son Billy Patterson. He was 67.

A native of Tampa, Fla., Patterson moved to California during childhood, his son said. Patterson began training at Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico, and later moved to California, where he trained throughout the state. He retired in 1986.

Funeral services are pending.