05/24/2010 12:00AM

Lava Man's brother showing his best stuff


Although the venerable Lava Man's improbable comeback from ankle injuries ended after only one race in 2009, his younger half-brother Enriched may keep the black type flowing for their dam, the Nostalgia's Star mare Li'l Ms. Leonard.

Enriched has placed in five stakes races, but his most impressive performance came in a one-mile allowance race last Saturday over Hollywood's turf course. Sent off as the 2-5 favorite in the field of five, Enriched tracked the runaway speed of multiple stakes winner Liberian Freighter through torrid fractions of 22.40 seconds and 44.72. Enriched ranged up to Liberian Freighter's flank after six furlongs in 1:08.45 and drew away in the stretch to win by 9 1/4 lengths in 1:33.32. Aided in part by that fast pace, Enriched received a 110

Beyer Speed Figure, easily the best of his

career and six points faster than any turf runner has earned in North America in 2010.

Like his more famous and accomplished sibling, Enriched has proven to be a successful claim. Lava Man was taken for $50,000 by trainer Doug O'Neill out of a second-place finish at Del Mar in 2004, while Enriched was gobbled up by O'Neill for $32,000 last November following a narrow win in a downhill turf race during the Oak Tree meet.

Enriched is by 12-time stakes winner High Brite, a son of Best Turn who earned more than a million dollars racing mostly in sprints. Trained by Wayne Lukas, High Brite began his career in claiming races before winning such graded events as the True North,

Roseben, Sport Page, and Gravesend handicaps. High Brite also was versatile enough to win at nine furlongs. A leading sire in California, High Brite has seen his progeny do their best racing at distances up to 1 1/16 miles.

A two-time claim, Li'l Ms. Leonard won 8 of 18 races in California. All of her victories came in sprint races.

Enriched reportedly had some physical issues that delayed his career debut until January of his 4-year-old year. Starting for breeder-owner Carol Lingenfelter and trainer Craig Dollase, Enriched tasted defeat in his first three races in maiden special weights restricted to California-breds.

Dollase dropped Enriched into an $80,000 maiden claimer going 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood on May 8, 2009, and Enriched responded with a big victory. A bit eager leaving the gate under jockey Joel Rosario, Enriched settled down after the first two furlongs and set the pace along the inside. He put some distance between himself and the rest of the field while under no urging on the far turn and never felt the sting of the whip while drawing away to win by 7 3/4 lengths. The race was validated when two of the well-beaten horses came back to immediately graduate.

Enriched was off for almost two months following his maiden score but he was sharp upon his return, taking an entry-level

optional claimer for California-breds at one mile over the Hollywood turf course. This time, Enriched showed that he could stalk and finish, pouncing three wide on the final turn to win by more than a length despite being a tad late to make his final lead change.

After a second-place effort behind runaway winner Mr. Big in a first-level allowance over the Hollywood main track on July 19, Enriched utilized his good positional speed to take a similar event over the Del Mar turf course on Aug. 21. After breaking a beat slowly, Enriched pulled into pace-tracking position while outside the early leader. He took over a quarter-mile out and gamely held off the closers to win by a diminishing head.

Enriched made his stakes debut in the

California Cup Mile on turf at Oak Tree on Oct. 3 and ran a solid third behind the razor-sharp The Usual Q. T. Three horses returned from the Cal Cup Mile to win, including

Enriched, who was surprisingly entered for the $32,000 tag in an entry-level optional claimer for statebreds on Nov. 1. Racing with front bandages while trying the tricky downhill turf course at Santa Anita for the first time, Enriched relaxed nicely in third position before setting sail for loose pacesetter Trail Mix on the turn. Enriched wasn't fazed by crossing over the dirt patch and gamely wore down Trail Mix at the shadow of the wire.

It took new trainer O'Neill seven races to get Enriched to the winner's circle, but the gelding certainly paid his way, finishing second in the On Trust Handicap at 7 1/2 furlongs over Cushion Track, second in the down-the-hill Sensational Star Handicap on New Year's Day at Santa Anita, and second again in the Crystal Water Handicap at one mile over the Santa Anita grass. Sandwiched among those races was a tiring fifth in the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at one mile on grass at Hollywood after setting the fractions.

Enriched scored in a nine-furlong second-level optional claimer over the Santa Anita turf course on March 19. He seemed lathered up around the neck going to post but broke beautifully under jockey Michael Baze. For a moment, it appeared as if Enriched would be stuck in a speed duel with Gothic Samurai, but Enriched professionally responded to Baze's rating hold and backed off the leader. Enriched patiently tracked the legitimate fractions of 22.16 seconds, 46.83, and 1:09.58 before engaging Gothic Samurai turning for home. He put that one away and then held off the rallying next-out winner Riviera Cocktail despite failing to complete his final lead change until inside the sixteenth pole.

Enriched was entered in the Charles Town Classic, but failed to break in from the also-eliglbe list. Instead, he made his dirt debut in the Grade 3 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Oaks undercard. He ran an even third as the longest shot on the board behind multiple graded stakes winner Arson Squad.

In this day and age of early retirements to the breeding shed, it could be argued that our best racing prospects, save for geldings, never reach full maturity on the track. Lava Man did win the Derby Trial at Fairplex at 3 but he really came to hand between his 4- and 6-year-old seasons, winning Grade 1 races on dirt, synthetic, and turf including three straight victories in the prestigious Hollywood Gold Cup. Perhaps Enriched is just hitting his best stride in the spring of his 5-year-old campaign.

Combining the tactical speed and versatility that made Lava Man a household name, Enriched seems once again poised to tackle graded competition.