02/23/2007 12:00AM

Lava Man whistles in Big Cap workout

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Lava Man worked six furlongs in 1:12.20 at Hollywood Park on Friday, further strengthening his position as the favorite for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 3.

The defending champion of the Big Cap, Lava Man's time was the fastest of 20 at the distance. The workout left trainer Doug O'Neill impressed.

"I think we're on schedule with where we want to be," he said.

Lava Man worked in company with the maiden Music and Magic, who is also trained by O'Neill. Lava Man started slightly in front, racing on the inside. He covered the first quarter-mile in 12.40 seconds, three furlongs in 37.80, and five furlongs in 1:00.40, according to O'Neill's stopwatch.

Lava Man finished two lengths in front of Music and Magic and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:24.20.

The Big Cap, which is run over 1o1/4 miles, will be Lava Man's second start of 2007. Owned by Jason Wood and STD Racing Stable, Lava Man won the Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 27. Throughout the winter, Lava Man has been based at Hollywood Park, which has a Cushion Track synthetic surface.

"He's been awesome" since the Big Cap, O'Neill said. "The few weather issues that we've had we've been able to maneuver around on the Cushion Track."

Lava Man will carry top weight in the Big Cap, with the specific weight assignments scheduled to be announced this weekend. Last year, he carried 120 pounds in the Big Cap, and won by three-quarters of a length.

O'Neill said on Friday that he predicts Lava Man will be assigned 123 pounds.

"I've done a little politicking," O'Neill said.

Lava Man may have two starts in March. O'Neill said a switch to turf for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free over about 1 1/8 miles on turf in Dubai on March 31 is a possibility, pending the outcome of the Big Cap.

"The biggest thing is to run well and come out in good shape," O'Neill said of the Big Cap.

There are 10 probable starters for the Big Cap, the others being Arson Squad, Awesome Gem, Ball Four, Boboman, Brother Derek, El Roblar, McCann's Mojave, Molengao, and Spring at Last.

Wilko, the winner of the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, will not start in the Big Cap, trainer Craig Dollase said. Wilko has made one start this year, finishing fourth in an optional claimer on turf on Feb. 10. Dollase did not specify when Wilko will make his next start.

O'Neill trains Spring at Last, who finished second to Arson Squad in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 3. The Big Cap will be Spring at Last's first start going 1 1/4 miles.

Friday at Hollywood Park, Spring at Last breezed six furlongs in 1:13.

"I think he ran well enough in the Strub to warrant a start," O'Neill said.

Bone spur has Exhale off Derby trail

Exhale, the flashy winner of a maiden race at Santa Anita in January, is off of the Triple Crown trail after coming up with a bone spur in his left knee, trainer John Sadler said on Thursday.

The injury will require surgery and will keep Exhale out of training for 90 days, Sadler said. The injury was detected after Exhale worked at Santa Anita last weekend and subsequently underwent X-rays.

Owned by CRK Stables, Exhale won a maiden race over 6 1/2 furlongs by five lengths on Jan. 15. The colt was purchased for $800,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2-year-olds in training last year.

"He's not the sort that needs to be pushed for the Derby," Sadler said. 'I think he'll be a nice older horse."

Horse Greeley, Dancing Edie training

Horse Greeley and Dancing Edie, major stakes winners at Del Mar last summer, have returned to training after being given breaks in recent months.

Horse Greeley, the winner of the Del Mar Futurity in September, is nearing his first three-furlong workout at Hollywood Park. Trained by Richard Mandella, Horse Greeley has not started since finishing seventh in the Grade 2 Norfolk Breeders' Cup Stakes last October. He emerged from that race with a bone chip in an ankle, which was removed through surgery.

"He won't run for six to eight weeks," Mandella said.

Dancing Edie, the winner of the Grade 1 John Mabee Handicap last July, has resumed jogging, Dollase said. He did not set a timetable on her return to racing.

Dancing Edie, 5, has not started since finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs in November.

Dollase trains Hendrix, who is a candidate for the $5 million Dubai Duty Free. Unraced since finishing third in the San Gabriel Handicap at Santa Anita on Dec. 31, Hendrix worked five furlongs in 59.20 seconds at Hollywood Park on Thursday, the fastest recorded work at that distance.

Dollase said that he prefers to point for Dubai instead of the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita on March 3. "It came up a little quick," Dollase said of the Kilroe. "We're playing a little catch-up. I'll feel better with a fresh horse in Dubai."

Trainer Cardenas ill

Trainer Ruben Cardenas has disbanded his Hollywood Park stable for at least the next month while recovering from an illness he described as a "stomach infection."

Cardenas, 47, is resting at home and said that he hopes to return to training in a month. A few of the horses that he trains have been turned out while others have been sent to Dollase, Jesus Mendoza, and Jorge Periban.

Cardenas said he has fought the illness since last summer and was recently hospitalized. "

"They found that I had an infection," he said. "I just got a little sick. Every day, I feel a little better. I'll probably come back in a month."

o The most expensive claim of the meet was made on Thursday when the maiden Amazin Blue was claimed for $100,000 by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Amazin Blue won the race over 1 1/16 miles by a neck. Hollendorfer and Peter Redekop own Amazin Blue.