01/26/2007 12:00AM

Lava Man tops impressive list of state champs


ARCADIA, Calif. - Lava Man, who in 2006 became the first horse to win the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic in the same year, has been named California-bred champion older horse for 2006.

Now 6, he was honored as the year's outstanding turf horse and is an overwhelming favorite to be named California-bred horse of the year when the award is announced at the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association's annual awards ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena on Feb. 5.

Lava Man, a winner of 14 of 35 starts and $3,804,706, is not through yet. He was scheduled to make his 2007 debut in Saturday's $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf. He is one of six Cal-bred divisional champions expected to race in 2007.

The other divisional winners are: Pirate's Deputy, 2-year-old male; Romance Is Diane, 2-year-old filly; Brother Derek, 3-year-old male; Bai and Bai, 3-year-old filly; Moscow Burning, older female; and Thor's Echo, sprinter.

Thor's Echo won the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding sprinter of 2006 at a ceremony in Beverly Hills on Monday.

Four of the Cal-bred champions won Grade 1 stakes in 2006 - Brother Derek (Santa Anita Derby), Lava Man (Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Pacific Classic, Whittingham Handicap), Romance Is Diane (Hollywood Starlet), and Thor's Echo (Breeders' Cup Sprint and Frank De Francis Memorial Dash). Seven statebreds combined to win a record 10 Grade 1 stakes last year.

The sprint category was so deep that two California-bred Grade 1 winners from 2006 - Bordonaro (Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap) and Proud Tower Too (Golden Shaheen) - were not honored with a championship.

The only champion that is not in training is Moscow Burning, who was sold in November for $1 million at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale by Shadai Farm of Japan. Moscow Burning outpolled Dancing Edie, the winner of the Grade 1 John Mabee Handicap at Del Mar in July, in the female turf category.

Many of the champions will run in coming weeks.

Pirate's Deputy, who won 2 of 7 starts and $386,482 last year, is preparing for his 3-year-old debut in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 3.

Romance Is Diane, a winner of 3 of 4 starts and $376,150 last year, is expected to make her next start in the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 10.

Brother Derek, a three-time stakes winner last year, finished third in the San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 13 and is being pointed for the $300,000 Strub Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 3.

Bai and Bai, who won 2 of 6 starts and $145,225, is already a 2007 stakes winner. She won the Muir Woods Stakes at Golden Gate Fields earlier this month, and worked five furlongs on Wednesday.

Thor's Echo was sold in early January by Pablo Suarez and Royce Jaime for an undisclosed sum to Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al Maktoum of Dubai. Thor's Echo has been transferred to trainer Satish Seemar in Dubai and is expected to make his 2007 debut in the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai on March 31.

Last year, Thor's Echo was second to Proud Tower Too in the Golden Shaheen, one of the highlight finishes of the year for the California-bred program.

Three stallions will be honored on Feb. 5 for 2006 accomplishments - Swiss Yodeler for progeny earnings and 2-year-old earnings; Bertrando for number of winners; and Tribal Rule for leading freshman stallion.

Marty and Pam Wygod will be recognized for highest earnings by a breeder, and Doug O'Neill for outstanding trainer. O'Neill trains Lava Man and had Thor's Echo in his stable in 2006.