10/08/2007 12:00AM

Lava Man to skip Breeders' Cup

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Lava Man, who finished last in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile on Sunday, will not start in any Breeders' Cup races and will be pointed to the $250,000 California Cup Classic for statebreds at Santa Anita on Nov. 4, according to trainer Doug O'Neill and co-owner Steve Kenly.

The California Cup Classic will give Lava Man a chance to salvage the second half of the season, which has seen the 6-year-old gelding's form tail off remarkably after two seasons as the leader of the California handicap division.

In the Oak Tree Mile, Lava Man was beaten 4 3/4 lengths by Out of Control. Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Lava Man was third along the rail to the top of the stretch but faded through the final quarter-mile.

"Corey said he didn't have any energy, he didn't have his stuff today," Kenly said.

O'Neill wished that Lava Man had not raced along the rail.

"He can't be covered up and explode," O'Neill said.

After the race, Lava Man was given a clean bill of health, O'Neill said.

"He scoped clean," O'Neill said. "It was a disappointing run."

The California Cup Classic over 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic main track will be Lava Man's first start in restricted company since he won the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf for California-breds and Florida-breds at Santa Anita in January.

A winner of 17 of 42 starts and $5,214,706, Lava Man finished second in the 2004 California Cup Classic, shortly after he won the first stakes of his career in the Derby Trial Stakes at Pomona. Since the 2004 Cal Cup, Lava Man has won 10 stakes, including seven Grade 1s.

His last victory came in the Hollywood Gold Cup on June 30, which was followed by a sixth-place finish in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 19.

"You have to wonder if age has caught up with him," Kenly said. "I'm sure people are writing him off after his last race. We'll cross our fingers that you haven't heard the last of him."

Surf Cat still targeting BC Dirt Mile

Surf Cat, who finished fifth in the Oak Tree Mile, remains on course for the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Monmouth Park. Surf Cat finished 4 1/2 lengths behind Out of Control, leading to the top of the stretch along the inside before fading.

"He didn't like the rail," trainer Bruce Headley said. "He lugged out the whole way."

After the race, Headley wished he had started Surf Cat in the Ancient Title.

"I should have run him in the Sprint," he said. "It's easier to say that after the fact."

River's Prayer retired with injury

River's Prayer, winner of the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder in July and seven other stakes, has been retired after suffering a sesamoid injury during a workout at Hollywood Park on Sunday, trainer Paula Capestro said.

River's Prayer was scheduled to start in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Monmouth Park on Oct. 26.

"It's a fractured sesamoid but it's not displaced," Capestro said. "She didn't tear her ligaments. She's standing up on it. She doesn't need surgery, but it's career-ending."

River's Prayer was in the midst of a workout when she was pulled up by jockey Clinton Potts, Capestro said.

"She started going to the quarter pole and I noticed her pulling up," Capestro said.

After being walked in the stable area for several minutes, Capestro said that River's Prayer showed signs of unsoundness.

"We have her in a support bandage and the vet said that is all she'll need," Capestro said. "It will heal together on its own but it won't be strong enough to race on. She'll have a good life."

Owned by a partnership, River's Prayer, 4, is scheduled to be sold at the Keeneland November breeding sale next month. She won 9 of 16 starts and $921,958.

"We loved our chances in that race," Capestro said. "We thought she would fly around that dirt."

River's Prayer was a stakes winner at 2 and 3 and had her best season this year, going unbeaten in five starts, including the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap at Del Mar in August.

Throat surgery for Declan's Moon

Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, underwent throat surgery Monday at a Southern California equine hospital in hopes of helping him recapture his old form.

Ron Ellis, who trains Declan's Moon, said noted surgeon Dr. Wayne McIlwraith was to do the surgery at his clinic near Los Alamitos. The decision to operate was made following Declan's Moon's last start, when he finished fifth of six in the restricted Pirate's Bounty Handicap at Del Mar on Sept. 5. Declan's Moon is 1 for 10 since returning in July 2006 from a 16-month layoff.

"We're trying to help him out," Ellis said Monday morning. "We've just been spinning our wheels with him. It looked like he was coming around this summer, but he just didn't try in the Pirate's Bounty. We have to try to get him his air. The talent's still there. And the soundness is definitely there."

'Leroybrown' next start undecided

Big Bad Leroybrown, winner of an optional claimer over seven furlongs last Friday, may start in the California Cup, but co-owner Bud Johnston and trainer Don Warren were non-committal Monday morning as to which race would be chosen.

Big Bad Leroybrown won the optional claimer by 1 1/2 lengths over Lucky J.H., who is expected to start in the California Cup Classic. Johnston and Warren are considering the Classic, the $175,000 Mile on turf and, to a lesser extent, the $150,000 Sprint over six furlongs.

"We know he likes the racetrack and that has to play into the decision," Johnston said.

Big Bad Leroybrown won the Real Good Deal Stakes over seven furlongs at Del Mar in August, beating Idiot Proof, who returned to win Sunday's Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman