07/24/2007 12:00AM

Lava Man's groom loses arm in car crash


DEL MAR, Calif. - Noe Garcia, the groom for the popular older horse Lava Man, was listed in fair condition on Tuesday at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, one day after losing his left arm in an early morning traffic accident near Del Mar racetrack. The driver of the car that hit Garcia's van admitted he had been drinking, according to a California Highway Patrol report.

Garcia was transferred from the intensive care unit to a regular room on Tuesday, according to Lisa Ohmstede, the manager of public relations at Scripps Memorial. Ohmstede said she did not know how much longer Garcia would need to be hospitalized.

According to an accident report filed by the California Highway Patrol, Garcia was traveling southbound on Interstate 5 near Lomas Santa Fe Drive at 1 a.m. Monday morning when his Toyota Sienna van was rear-ended by a Chevrolet Camaro driven by Heriberto Castillo of Oceanside, which caused Garcia's van to overturn.

Garcia, 39, severed his arm in the accident. He was not wearing a seat belt, according to the CHP.

The accident was caused "due to Castillo's intoxication," according to the CHP report.

Following the accident, according to the CHP, Castillo, 22, "fled the scene" and drove northbound to Carlsbad. There, a motorist phoned the Carlsbad Police Department regarding an erratic driver. Castillo was pulled over, and damage to Castillo's car matched the damage to Garcia's car, according to the CHP. Castillo "admitted to being involved in this collision and drinking alcohol prior to the accident," according to the CHP collision report.

Castillo was booked into the nearby Vista Detention Facility jail, where he was being held on bail of $125,320, according to the San Diego Sheriff's department. Castillo was scheduled to be arraigned in court on Wednesday afternoon, according to the San Diego Sherriff's department.

Lava Man most recently won the Hollywood Gold Cup for the third straight year. His next scheduled start is next month's Pacific Classic, which he won last year.

Garcia had been off Sunday and returned to his Los Angeles-area home to visit his family. He was returning to work on Monday when the accident occurred, according to trainer Doug O'Neill.

"It's very sad," Tony Romero, Lava Man's exercise rider, said at O'Neill's Del Mar barn on Tuesday morning. "It's hard to believe. But thank God he's alive."

Talamo keeps rolling

The switch from apprentice to journeyman did nothing to slow down jockey Joe Talamo, who won three races Sunday - his first day without the apprentice allowance - and two more on Monday. His five victories those two days include the Fleet Treat Stakes with Spenditallbaby.

"I'm more excited without the bug," Talamo said. "I don't know why. But I am. I feel the best is yet to come.

"I got so many opportunities with the bug. Trainers say they still want to ride me. I'm grateful for all their rides so far."

Talamo is the odds-on favorite to be named the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey at year's end.

Several well-wishers congratulated him in the stable area for his good start as a journeyman. As one exercise rider went by, he called out to Talamo that Talamo's success had inspired the rider's son to become a jockey.

"Tell him to go to school and be a lawyer," Talamo yelled back.

Battle Won tunes up for Crosby

Battle Won, who finished third in last year's Bing Crosby Handicap, turned in his final prep for this year's edition with a quick half-mile in 46.60 seconds on Polytrack on Tuesday morning for trainer Mike Mitchell. The time was the second-best of 31 at the distance.

Battle Won will be making only his third start of the year in Sunday's Bing Crosby. He most recently finished third in the Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park. Now 7, Battle Won will be attempting to end a 12-race losing streak dating to May 2005, when he captured the Churchill Downs Handicap the same day Giacomo won the Kentucky Derby.

The six-furlong Crosby, a Grade 1 race worth $300,000, is expected to have an outstanding field of sprinters, including the unbeaten 3-year-old E Z Warrior. In addition to Battle Won (Michael Baze the rider) and E Z Warrior (David Flores), others scheduled for the Crosby are Bordonaro (Richard Migliore), Declan's Moon (Jose Valdivia Jr.), Gotaghostofachance (Jon Court), Greg's Gold (Victor Espinoza), In Summation (Corey Nakatani), and Northern Soldier (Aaron Gryder). Surf Cat, assigned top weight of 122 pounds, is expected to await next month's Pat O'Brien Handicap, leaving Bordonaro the highweight at 120 pounds, three more than Greg's Gold.

Big field for San Clemente

The Grade 2, $150,000 San Clemente Handicap on Saturday for 3-year-old turf fillies is expected to have a large field, including Honnete, Mostbeautifulstorm, the French import My Little Margie, Passified, Pinata, Spenditallbaby, Super Freaky, Tough Tiz's Sis, Tremendous One, and either Diva's Seastar or La Tee.

Tough Tiz's Sis worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Polytrack on Tuesday morning for trainer Bob Baffert. Tough Tiz's Sis, assigned 121 pounds, is expected to be the topweight in the race.

Claims, claims, claims

There often is a rush to claim horses early at Del Mar because of the desire of owners to have a horse run during this meet, but the activity at the claim box the first week of the meet was frenetic.

Through the first six days of the meet, 30 races were run from which a horse could have been claimed, including optional-claiming races. A total of 52 horses were claimed, an average of nearly nine per day.

The claims totaled $1,352,500. On Monday, six more horses changed hands, including race winners Blushing Bear Cat in the second, Hello Bolly in the fourth, Las Vegas Lucky in the sixth, and Like Josie Wells in the finale.

* Baze, the winningest rider at Hollywood Park, won 10 races the first week here to lead the standings by two over Espinoza. Peter Miller leads all trainers with four wins, one more than Bobby Frankel.

* Migliore was given a three-day suspension by Del Mar's stewards after his horse Areutrue was disqualified from third place in the fifth race on Sunday. The suspension begins on Monday.

* Migliore and Nakatani will be at Saratoga on Saturday to ride, respectively, Fairbanks and Sun King in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap.

o Jockey Martin Pedroza was suspended for three days, beginning this Saturday, following the disqualification of his mount Sizzling Sarah in the fifth race last Friday.

* Trainer Darrell Vienna was fined $400 by Del Mar's stewards as a result of his horse Scandalous testing for an excessive amount of the legal medication phenylbutazone following a second-place finish in the seventh race at Hollywood Park June 14.

* Trainer Ron McAnally was fined $300 because his horse Men's Magazine had to be scratched following the late administration of race-day medication in the first race opening day, July 18.

* Trainers John Sadler ($200) and Bobby Frankel ($100) were both fined for having their horses report late to the receiving barn for races earlier this month at Hollywood Park.