07/30/2008 11:00PM

Lava Man won't run again

Benoit & Associates
Lava Man retires with 17 wins, including seven Grade 1 stakes, and $5,268,706.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Lava Man's racing career has ended.

Wednesday, co-owner Steve Kenly said that concern over Lava Man's ankles has led to the decision to retire the seven-time Grade 1 winner, who earned $5,268,706 in a 46-race career that included 17 wins.

Earlier this week, Lava Man, 7, was sent to the Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic in Santa Ynez, Calif., for a physical examination. During that exam, clinic veterinarians determined that he has problems with his ankles, confirming what racetrack veterinarians had initially diagnosed, Kenly said. The decision to retire Lava Man confirmed a Daily Racing Form report last week that Lava Man's career likely was over.

Lava Man finished last of six in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar on July 20 in his last start. After that race, co-owners Jason Wood and Kenly's father and sister, Dave and Tracy, debated whether to retire Lava Man with trainer Doug O'Neill. They decided to wait and see how the horse emerged from the race before making any decision.

"The chances of him coming back were slim," Steve Kenly said. "It's closure.

"I'm happy that he didn't get hurt, just aches and pains of old age. I think we did the right thing of looking at all the options and making sure this was the right thing to do."

Lava Man became a fixture in the California handicap division in recent years. Claimed for $50,000 on Aug. 13, 2004, Lava Man ended his career with a six-race losing streak, but he was nearly unbeatable at times.

The final victory of his career was a record-equaling third consecutive win in the Hollywood Gold Cup in June 2007. He joined Native Diver (1965-67) as the only three-time winner of the Gold Cup. Lava Man's other Grade 1 wins came in consecutive runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap in 2006-07, the 2006 Pacific Classic, and the 2006 Whittingham Handicap.

A California-bred, Lava Man earned a staggering $5,170,103 after being claimed.

Epic Power regains good form

Jack Carava stood on the Hollywood Park racetrack on June 5, impatiently watching the tote board. Epic Power, the durable 7-year-old gelding that Carava trains, had just won an allowance race over a mile on turf, but an incident in the stretch had led to an inquiry.

The longer the stewards reviewed the race, the worse the situation looked for Epic Power and Carava. It seemed Epic Power's 13th career win in his 58th start was slipping away.

After several minutes, the stewards disqualified Epic Power and placed him last in a field of five. Carava was furious. He put his head down and began walking, first through a tunnel that connects the racetrack to the paddock, and then down a path toward the parking lot.

Seldom has a trainer fled a racetrack faster.

"I was watching $5,000 flood out of my pocket," he said, recalling his part of the winner's share of the race.

On the drive home, Carava's thoughts turned brighter. Reflecting on Epic Power's performance, Carava realized that the horse had run his best race of 2008, displaying the form that led to stakes wins in 2006 and 2007.

"I could tell he was coming back," Carava said.

The performance has left Carava hopeful that Epic Power can win the third stakes of his career in Saturday's $125,000 California Dreamin Handicap for statebreds over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Del Mar.

If he wins, Epic Power will have won at least one stakes in each of his last three campaigns. Remarkably, he is in his sixth season of racing.

What began with a third-place finish in a $25,000 claiming race for maidens at Bay Meadows on June 4, 2003, has developed into a career marked by success, stamina, and consistency.

Owned by Ron Valenta's La Canada Stable, Epic Power won the 2006 California Cup Mile and 2007 Khaled Stakes. He is best at distances from a mile to 1 1/8 miles, and has won 12 of 58 starts, with 13 seconds and 11 third-place finishes.

Carava, 42, has trained Epic Power for 29 starts, having claimed him for $40,000 in July 2005. Carava trained Epic Power for six races before losing him for $40,000 in February 2006 and then took him back for the same price in his next start in March 2006. Epic Power has been in the Carava stable ever since.

A few months ago, Carava questioned whether Epic Power belonged in race such as the California Dreamin' after a 10th-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park in January.

"The trip to Florida messed him up," he said. "It was too much for him. I thought, Oh, no. Maybe we've ruined him for good."

Carava's impression brightened after Epic Power finished second to Mr. Wolverine in the Khaled Stakes in April.

"I thought he was back," he said.

Epic Power has worked well at Santa Anita and Del Mar in recent weeks, recording five-furlongs workouts in 59.20 and 59.60 seconds.

Stardom Bound points to Sorrento

Stardom Bound, second by a nose in a maiden race on July 20 in her debut, will make her next start in the $150,000 Sorrento Stakes for 2-year-old fillies over 6 1/2 furlongs next Wednesday, trainer Christopher Paasch said.

Owned by Charles Cono, Stardom Bound worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 on Wednesday. In the Sorrento, Cono and Paasch will also start Cosmic Queen, who was third in the Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 28.

Paasch said that Mike Smith will ride Stardom Bound. He worked the filly on Wednesday, and was impressed by her debut when she broke slowly and made up significant ground through the stretch.

"Mike came back and said she was five or six lengths the best horse," Paasch said.