06/10/2006 12:00AM

Lava Man wins Charles Whittingham


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Add a Grade 1 turf race to the list of accomplishments for the remarkable Lava Man.

Saturday at Hollywood Park, Lava Man stretched his winning streak to 4 with a comfortable two-length victory in the $300,000 . The victory enhanced his reputation as a leading older horse in the nation. Earlier this year, Lava Man won the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on the main track.

Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Lava Man led throughout, settling slow fractions of 24.85 and 49.91 seconds in the first half-mile. Lava Man led by 1 1-2 lengths early, but the margin was reduced to about a half-length on the final turn when the Grade 1 winner King's Drama and Sweet Return moved closer.

"He came out running, then he relaxed for me just like the way I wanted him to," Nakatani said.

The threat was short-lived. Lava Man pulled clear in early stretch and led by 1 1-2 lengths with a furlong remaining. King's Drama held second, finishing 1 1-4 lengths in front of Red Fort in the field of nine. Sweet Return finished fourth.

Lava Man ($3.80) finished 1-4 miles on turf in 2:00.29. Owned by Jason Wood and Steve and Dave Kenly and trained by Doug O'Neill, Lava Man has won 11 of 31 starts and $2,454,706. The race was a prep for the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 8, a race that Lava Man won last year.

*Lucky J.H. entered the Gold Cup picture with his first win in a graded stakes in the Grade 3, $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap.

Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, Lucky J.H. finished 1 1-4 lengths in front of Captain Squire after battling for the lead with that 7-year-old gelding for the final six furlongs. Owned by Harris Farms and trained by Carla Gaines, Lucky J.H. ($7) ran 7 1-2 furlongs in 1:29.66. Primerica finished third in the field of seven.