06/18/2005 12:00AM

Lava Man pulls surprise; NTRA Pick 4 pays $454


Lava Man, trained by a vacationing Doug O'Neill, pulled an upset in Saturday's $250,000 at Hollywood Park, throwing further chaos into the buildup for the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9.

The race was the final leg of Saturday's $1 NTRA National Pick 4, which returned $454. The pool reached $690,109, well above the guaranteed $400,000.

The first three legs of the pick four were won by Ashado ($3.70) in the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park, Two Trail Sioux ($9.80) in the Fleur de Lis Handicap, and Saint Liam ($3.80) in the Stephen Foster Handicap. The latter two races were run at Churchill Downs.

Lava Man ($19.40) scored his first major stakes win and second stakes win of his career in the Californian. Last September, he won the Derby Trial Stakes at Fairplex Park.

Ace Blue and Lava Man fought for the early lead, with Anziyan Royalty stalking those two through early fractions of 23.45 and 47.11 seconds. Lava Man, ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, took the lead on the final turn and was quickly challenged by Anziyan Royalty, a 6-1 shot.

In early stretch, Lava Man pulled clear of Anziyan Royalty and won by a length. Skukuza, sent off as the longshot in the field of seven at 33-1, finished third, followed by Borrego, Choctaw Nation, Molengao, and Ace Blue. Keep on Punching was scratched.

Lava Man finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.83. A 4-year-old gelding by Slew City Slew, Lava Man has won 6 of 23 starts and $458,039.

A California-bred, Lava Man won an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles on May 14, which marked his first victory of the year.

Last fall, Lava Man was second in the California Cup Classic at Santa Anita and On Trust Handicap for statebreds.