07/01/2007 11:00PM

Lava Man's next goal: Pacific Classic repeat


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With his place in the Hollywood Park record book secure as the second three-time winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup, Lava Man will be pointed for another record-equaling accomplishment this summer.

He will try to become the third horse to win consecutive runnings of Del Mar's richest race - the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19. Lava Man won the 2006 Pacific Classic by 2o1/2 lengths and will try to join Tinners Way (1994-95) and Skimming (2000-2001) as repeat winners.

Judging from the way he edged A.P. Xcellent in Saturday's Gold Cup, Lava Man will be tough to beat at equal weights in the Pacific Classic over 1 1/4 miles. In Saturday's Gold Cup, a handicap, Lava Man carried 124 pounds, eight more than A.P. Xcellent, and won by a nose.

"He's got a bigger heart than anybody," said co-owner Steve Kenly.

Lava Man joined Native Diver (1965-67) as a three-time winner of the Gold Cup. Lava Man won the 2005 Gold Cup by 8 3/4 lengths and won by a nose in 2006 and this year. Lava Man pulled alongside the front-running A.P. Xcellent on the final turn and the two ran together in the final quarter-mile.

"A lot of things were going through [my] mind down the stretch," Kenly said. "In my mind, I almost thought it was destiny because of what this horse has done. This race was meaningful for sure. To tie a record like that is something."

Lava Man was given a rousing reception when he returned to the winner's circle by the ontrack crowd of 9,276. He left the paddock to a loud chorus of cheers, which was enough of a concern to assistant trainer Leandro Mora that he stayed at the 6-year-old gelding's side until he reached the track.

The post-race reception proved to Mora how popular Lava Man has become while amassing 13 stakes wins and 17 victories in 40 starts, and earnings of $5,189,706. Mora represented vacationing trainer Doug O'Neill at a post-race press conference with Kenly and co-owner Jason Wood.

"No offense, but the horse belongs to the California people," Mora said, looking toward Kenly and Wood. "Every California fan feels they own Lava Man."

Wood shared Mora's sentiment.

"If we weren't a part of it, we'd appreciate it," Wood said. "The fan support is unbelievable. You don't get that type of fans day in and day out. It takes your breath away."

A.P. Xcellent will try Lava Man again

A.P. Xcellent's Gold Cup effort felt like a victory to trainer John Shirreffs. Monday, he was making plans for a rematch in the Pacific Classic.

Shirreffs was left wondering whether the late rally from third-place finisher Big Booster might have propelled Lava Man in the final yards. If Big Booster "hadn't come up on the outside of Lava Man, we might have held him off," Shirreffs said.

The Gold Cup was the best result of A.P. Xcellent's 12-race career and proved that he is best when leading. Owned by Stan Fulton, A.P. Xcellent has won 3 of 12 starts and $281,980.

Ten probable for CashCall Mile

Led by Wait a While, the 2006 champion 3-year-old filly, a field of 10 is expected for Friday's $750,000 CashCall Mile on turf.

The New York-based Wait a While, winless in her last two starts, is unbeaten in two appearances in California, having won the 2006 American Oaks here and the 2006 Yellow Ribbon at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Wait a While will face Alexandra Rose, Arm Candy, Dancing Edie, Dia de la Novia, Kiss to Heaven, Koiuta, Lady of Venice, Precious Kitten, and Price Tag, the winner of the Matriarch Stakes here last November.

Mitchell escapes without penalty

The California Horse Racing Board has filed complaints against Paulo Lobo and Mike Pender for excessive amounts of clenbuterol found in their starters at Hollywood Park earlier this spring, but did not take action against trainer Mike Mitchell for an acepromazine positive found in one of his starters in 2005.

Lobo was cited after Right Special tested in excess of the permitted level of clenbuterol, 37 nanograms per milliliter of blood, following a victory in the third race on April 26. The Pender-trained Asian Eyes was cited after a runner-up finish in the fifth race on May 6.

Clenbuterol is a bronchodilator used to aid horses with breathing problems. Hearings have yet to be scheduled in either case.

The racing board did not take action against Mitchell following an acepromazine positive found in Kool Suggestion, the second-place finisher in the seventh race at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in October 2005.

Administrative law judge Daniel Juarez ruled in March that Mitchell should not face a sanction. The racing board could have accepted, denied, or modified Juarez's decision. Because the board took no action within 100 days, Juarez's decision was "deemed adopted," according to a statement released by the board on Saturday.

Acepromazine is a tranquilizer that is commonly used in horses.

Owner Grether dies

Carl Grether, who owned such horses as Crafty C.T., Impressive Grades, Madame Pietra, and Our Shining Hour, died Sunday of complications of Parkinson's disease, according to his trainer, Howard Zucker. Grether was 85.

Crafty C.T. was Grether's most accomplished racehorse. A winner of 4 of 18 starts and $832,652, Crafty C.T. won the 2001 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita and was second in the Santa Anita Derby that year. In 2002, Crafty C.T. finished second in the Met Mile and third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Arlington Park.

Grether is survived by four children. A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday at St. James Episcopal Church, 1325 Monterrey Road, in South Pasadena, Calif. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Parkinson's Disease Fund, care of Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.

* Jockey Corey Nakatani took off his mounts on Sunday and Monday, citing cramps. Nakatani said he spent Sunday morning trying to reduce his weight in an effort to ride lower than his normal riding weight of 119 pounds.