09/30/2009 11:00PM

Lava Man's sibling making name for himself

Benoit & Associates
Enriched, a half-brother to Lava Man, will make his stakes debut in Saturday's California Cup Mile.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Don't get ahead of yourself, Carol Lingenfelter remembers thinking last fall when the then 3-year-old Enriched finally made it to the racetrack at Hollywood Park.

Sure, the gelding is a half-brother to Lava Man, the $50,000 claimer who went on to win seven Grade 1 stakes earlier this decade, but how many times can the same mare produce such a successful runner? Better to not have those thoughts, she decided when she turned Enriched over to trainer Craig Dollase.

"He is what he is," Lingenfelter told Dollase. "Give him every opportunity, whether he's a stakes horse or a cheap horse."

Enriched is not a cheap horse. That much is obvious. He showed that in July and August, winning two of three allowance races at Hollywood Park and Del Mar. He may be a stakes horse. Saturday, he makes his first start at that level in the California Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

Lingenfelter, who bred Enriched on her farm in Sanger, Calif., will not allow herself to make a prediction, but this is where she hoped the gelding would be.

"He's kind of turned it around, like it clicked on," she said.

"Somebody said, 'Do you think he's another Lava Man?' There's only one story that belongs to Lava Man. To compare him to Lava Man, it's nice to be related to him. Lava Man is a story all by himself. Not too many horses are claimed for $50,000 and go on to do that."

When he finally began his career last January, Enriched did little to catch the eye, finishing fourth, third, and seventh in his first three starts. He broke slowly in every race. The outlook did not look too encouraging when Enriched was dropped into an $80,000 claiming race for maidens at Hollywood Park on a Friday night in May. But the lesser field, a clean start, and his first start over 1 1/16 miles proved to be the difference. He romped home to win by 7 3/4 lengths. Enriched has not been worse than third in three subsequent starts.

The race that impressed Dollase occurred on Aug. 21, over a mile on turf at Del Mar. Always near the front, Enriched took the lead in early stretch, had a two-length advantage with a furlong remaining, and won by a head. After that, the California Cup became a realistic goal.

"He's changed a lot," Dollase said. "He had a big win at Del Mar for us. He's still learning the game. He's got some quirks and idiosyncrasies about him, but each race has been a learning experience for him. I would say he's kind of a late-maturing horse."

Since that race, the story of the Lava Man-Enriched family has changed. Last month, Lava Man, 8, was put back in training at Hollywood Park, more than a year after he was retired following a career of 17 wins in 46 starts and $5,268,706. In an era when Thoroughbreds have so-called careers that last months rather than years, Lava Man had already stood the test of time.

Lingenfelter, for one, is not sure what to make of the attempted comeback.

"I probably have no comment at this time," she said. "I'm not sure how much more good can come out of Lava Man's story. Why bother?"

Lava Man was foaled at Lingenfelter's 40-acre farm, and she watched him grow there before starting his career.

The farm is a hands-on operation for Lingenfelter, 54. She has been involved in racing throughout her adult life, starting out on the backstretch at the Fresno fair in the 1970s and later developing the farm.

"We raise them and lay them up," she said. "It's a working farm. I wouldn't want to have it any other way."

The list of lay-ups and horses raised at the farm are a notable group. Trainer Greg Gilchrist sent Lost in the Fog and Indyanne to Lingenfelter during breaks in their racing careers. Native Desert, the millionaire gelding, also was born and raised there.

"For a small operation, we haven't done too bad," she said, with a hint of pride in her voice.

The farm is home to Bedford Falls, a young stallion who is a half-brother to Harlan's Holiday, and hosts lay-ups from a variety of trainers throughout the state, and houses a few broodmares.

Earlier this year, Bedford Falls, who stands for $2,500, was bred to 22 mares in his first season at stud. Of those, 21 were pronounced in foal, Lingenfelter said.

"With the way that racing is out here [in California], with the breeding and the economy, we were happy with that," she said. "We hope to do the same next year. The people that have bred to him, pretty much, plan to race them."

Lingenfelter has a few mares of her own, but no longer owns Li'l Ms. Leonard, the dam of Enriched and Lava Man. She was sold in 2006 and resides in Kentucky, Lingenfelter said.

Enriched is her lasting connection to the mare. Even though the gelding will finally make his stakes debut this weekend, his owner-breeder is reluctant to dream too far into the future.

"That's hard to guess," she said. "I was hoping he'd be a useful individual and we could have some fun with my family and friends. He sure has been coming along nicely. Time will tell."