08/20/2006 11:00PM

Lava Man has turf option for BC prep


DEL MAR, Calif. - The versatility Lava Man has displayed in winning Grade 1 races on both turf and dirt this year could come into play again for trainer Doug O'Neill in deciding how best to prepare Lava Man for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, his year-end goal.

O'Neill wants to give Lava Man one more race before the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Classic, which is at 1 1/4 miles, the same distance as the Pacific Classic. Lava Man's options at the upcoming Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita are to run in the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on dirt on Oct. 7, or move back to turf for the Clement Hirsch Invitational on Sept. 30 in order to remain at 1 1/4 miles, O'Neill said.

Lava Man's victory in the Pacific Classic was his sixth straight this year without a loss. Four of the wins have come in Grade 1 races. All the races have been in California. Last year, Lava Man ran poorly the two times he was sent out of town. He was seventh of eight in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and 11th of 16 in the Japan Cup Dirt.

Super Frolic, who was third in the Pacific Classic, also will have one more race before the Breeders' Cup, trainer Vladimir Cerin said Monday.

Good Reward, who was second in the Pacific Classic, and Perfect Drift, who was fourth, left early Monday morning for New York and Kentucky, respectively.

Murray Johnson, the trainer of Perfect Drift, said he was not sure where Perfect Drift would run next. As with Lava Man and Super Frolic, he is expected to race once more before a scheduled start in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Johnson was upset with comments he made after the race to the San Diego Union-Tribune in which he criticized the way the main track was maintained the night before the race, and raised doubts about Lava Man.

"We know how [Lava Man] does back East when he travels," Johnson was quoted as saying. "I'd love to know his bicarb level, too. I'll guarantee it's in the 30's. Which means he . . . it's not a legitimate thing."

Johnson admitted to making the comments, but felt bad about making them and went by O'Neill's barn on Monday morning to apologize. O'Neill was at Santa Anita, so Johnson got O'Neill's cell phone number from his barn help at Del Mar and phoned O'Neill.

"I said some stuff after the race that I didn't mean," Johnson, his voice quivering, said Monday. "The guy got to me at the wrong time. I wanted to blame something for my horse not running. I should have just shut up."

Johnson had a stressful week, but did not want to blame that for his outburst. On Friday, however, his father, Geoffrey, 78, suffered a near-fatal heart attack at Del Mar. His heart stopped, but he was revived by paramedics and trainer Joe Herrick. Geoffrey Johnson was scheduled to have a defibrillator implanted in his chest on Tuesday at a local hospital.

Aragorn works for Del Mar BC Mile

Aragorn, who scored a powerful victory in the Eddie Read Handicap on July 22, tuned up for a scheduled start in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Mile by working six furlongs in 1:15 on turf on Monday morning at Del Mar. Although no cones, or dogs, were on the course, Aragorn remained out past the middle of the course.

Neil Drysdale, who trains Aragorn, said the colt "seems a little more focused" than he did before the Eddie Read, which Aragorn won by four lengths, recording a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 113.

"The first time, it was all new," Drysdale said. "He's been here for some time now."

Aragorn's presence would keep the field for the one-mile grass race quite small. In addition to Aragorn, who will be ridden by Corey Nakatani, others pointing for the race include Hendrix (David Flores the rider), Laura's Lucky Boy, Quasimodo (Victor Espinoza), Sweet Return (Alex Solis), Wild Buddy (Jon Court), and possibly Don Incauto and El Don.

Laura's Lucky Boy worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds on the turf course Monday for trainer Richard Mandella, who said he was not sure whether Laura's Lucky Boy would run, or who would ride. Laura's Lucky Boy has not raced since finishing 11th of 13 in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf.

"I just want to get him started back," said Mandella, who loitered after his horse worked to watch Aragorn work. "He's training really good."

Fourteenth horse euthanized

Yessiremychickadee was euthanized on Sunday after suffering a compound fracture to her right front cannon bone, track officials said. The injury occurred during the first race, the Viejas Casino Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on turf.

Yessiremychickadee was the 14th horse euthanized as a result of an injury during racing or training since this meeting began on July 19.

Yessiremychickadee won 2 of 5 starts and $64,950 for owner Jerry Jamgotchian and trainer Tim Yakteen. The filly was third in the minor Fairfield Stakes at the Solano County Fair in Vallejo, Calif., on July 22.

Signs of improvement for Simply Because

Simply Because, a Seattle Slew filly who suffered suspensory injuries while training at Del Mar in late July, continues to show improvement following recent surgery to stabilize the injured leg, trainer David Hofmans said.

Simply Because has been based at the San Luis Rey Equine Clinic in recent weeks. She is expected to stay there until early September before being transferred to Peacefield Farms in Temecula, Calif., which is owned by her owners, John and Jerry Amerman.

Hofmans is optimistic that Simply Because can be bred this winter.

"The first week of September is the target to get her home," Hofmans said.

Simply Because set a five-furlong course record on turf at Hollywood Park last month. She won the CERF Handicap at Del Mar last summer.

Brother Derek to return in El Cajon

Brother Derek is less than two weeks away from his first start since finishing fourth in the Preakness Stakes in May.

On Sunday at Del Mar, Brother Derek worked seven furlongs in 1:26.60, working part of the way in company with the maiden Respected.

Trainer Dan Hendricks said that Brother Derek will have another workout this weekend and will make his next start in the $100,000 El Cajon Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 2. A winner of 6 of 10 starts and $1,302,080, Brother Derek races for Cecil Peacock.

Brother Derek worked the first three furlongs in 38.32 seconds and the last half-mile in 48.28.

"He came back blowing a bit, which he needed," Hendricks said.

The winner of the Santa Anita Derby in April and the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, Brother Derek worked without shoes. He has not worn shoes since shortly after the Preakness Stakes, Hendricks said.

"It toughens up his feet as he trains," Hendricks said. "He has such a good foot, he never chips. It allows them to toughen and grow."

Hendricks said that working Brother Derek without shoes does have some financial drawbacks.

"We can't sell his shoes on eBay," he cracked. "They're very rare. He lost a shoe in the Kentucky Derby. We only have three of those left."

Solis cramps up, takes off

Alex Solis was scheduled to ride favored He's Crafty in the 10th and final race on Sunday, but he took off that mount right after the ninth race because he was starting to cramp up, according to his agent, Scotty McClellan.

"He called me and said he didn't want to cost those people the race," McClellan said Monday

Solis had ridden in the first nine races Sunday, a heavier workload than usual for him.

"He was pretty beat up at the end of the day," McClellan said.

Solis began a three-day suspension for careless riding on Monday, so he will not be in action again until Friday.

Tyler Baze subbed for Solis on He's Crafty, who finished eighth of nine as the even-money favorite.

Flores draws three-day ban

Jockey David Flores has been suspended for three days for careless riding in Saturday's Del Mar Oaks, the stewards announced Sunday.

Flores rode Take the Ribbon, who was disqualified from second and placed fourth for causing interference in the stretch.

The suspension begins on Sunday and continues through Wednesday.

* Trainer A.C. Avila was fined $400 after his horse Obassaba, who finished first in the sixth race at Hollywood Park on June 29, tested positive for an excessive amount of the legal medication phenylbutazone.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen