08/03/2007 12:00AM

Luckily, Lava Man's sore foot heals


DEL MAR, Calif. - Lava Man, the top older horse in California, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 on Friday to remain on course for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19, but the build up to the race has not been without a minor scare.

Last month, shortly after Lava Man won the Hollywood Gold Cup for the third consecutive year, he was found to be suffering from an abscess in his left front foot, trainer Doug O'Neill said. The abscess was more than likely present when Lava Man won the Gold Cup by a hard-fought nose over A.P. Xcellent.

"I think it makes his win even more impressive," O'Neill said.

Farrier Jim Jimenez found the abscess when he removed Lava Man's front shoes. Lava Man was wearing glue-on shoes at the time to protect his tender feet.

"When he pulled the glue-ons off, he had a close-to-the-surface abscess," O'Neill said. Jimenez "feels that if he hadn't pulled the glue-ons off, it would have worked its way up to becoming a quarter crack."

In early July, Lava Man was fitted with a three-quarter shoe to protected the tender part of the foot, and is now wearing a full shoe on that foot with a small pad between the foot and shoe that offers further protection, O'Neill said.

"We were relieved that we found it when we did," he said. "It's the foot that has given him more issues."

In a race in Japan in 2005, Lava Man injured the frog, the tender center part of his left front foot, leading to several weeks of extensive foot work by Jimenez.

O'Neill said he does not feel the recent foot problems will hinder Lava Man's preparation to the Pacific Classic, a race Lava Man won last year. Lava Man will be after his 14th stakes win. He has won 17 of 40 starts and $5,189,706.

In Friday's workout, Lava Man worked alone, and went the first three furlongs in 37.60 seconds and the last quarter-mile in 23.40, according to O'Neill's stopwatch. O'Neill timed Lava Man in 1:01, slightly faster than the official time. "He was just cruising," O'Neill said.

O'Neill said on Friday that Lava Man does not have soundness issues.

"He's got ankles that you can tell he's an older horse," O'Neill said. "Knock on wood, you can say he's structurally sound."

Baze can ride until hearing

Michael Baze, the leading rider at this meeting through Thursday, recently received a temporary restraining order in Superior Court against the California Horse Racing Board, allowing him to continue riding until an appeal is heard for a three-day suspension he received on July 28.

Baze was cited for causing interference aboard Zann in the Wickerr Handicap on July 27. Zann was not disqualified, but Baze was suspended from Saturday through Monday.

River's Prayer eyes Rancho Bernardo

River's Prayer, the winner of the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder last month, worked a half-mile in 50 seconds on Friday, and is being considered for the $200,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap Aug. 17, trainer Paula Capestro said.

Capestro said the decision hinges on how River's Prayer recovers from Friday's workout and how she works next weekend.

"We'll see how she eats and we'll check her blood in a few days," Capestro said. "The only reason I'd run her is to keep her happy."

Capestro has the newly created $1omillion Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Monmouth Park over six furlongs on Oct. 26 as a long-term goal.

Miss Versatile tries Polytrack

Miss Versatile, who finished third in a minor stakes in England last month, makes her U.S. debut in a $53,000 maiden special weight in Sunday's fourth race over 5 1/2 furlongs.

Trainer Ben Cecil is hopeful that Miss Versatile can prove to be effective on Del Mar's Polytrack synthetic surface.

"There is the hope that she will run well on it," Cecil said. "She's bred to run all day long."

Owned by Dolan and Tori Mueller, the children of owners David and Paula Mueller, Miss Versatile has been second or third in four starts. She was 10th in the Group 3 Albany Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting on a good-to-soft surface that Cecil said did not suit her.

Even if Miss Versatile wins on Sunday, Cecil said he may be reluctant to start her in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3, fearing that the recent overseas journey and the race on Sunday may be too taxing.

"We need to get her maiden broken first," Cecil said.

Sunday's race has drawn a field of nine, including six first-time starters. Weekend Connection, who drew the outside, is expected to go favored. Trained by Richard Mandella, Weekend Connection was fourth in her debut at Hollywood Park on June 24.

The first-time starters Exquisite Timing and Magic Myth are likely to show speed. Magic Myth drew the rail. Exquisite Timing is "one-dimensional," according to trainer Jim Cassidy. She had the fastest three-furlong work of the morning July 25, in 34.80 seconds.

Runner-up disqualified from purse

Part of the purse of a $25,000 claiming race at Hollywood Park on May 6 has been ordered redistributed after runner-up Asian Eyes was disqualified for testing positive for an excessive amount of clenbuterol, the stewards announced in a ruling on Thursday.

Asian Eyes's owner, Coto Thoroughbreds, was ordered to forfeit $4,600. The purse was redistributed to the owners of the original third- through sixth-place finishers - Mimosa Mist, Comparacion, Victory's Lady, and Jump Rope Girl.

In an agreement with the racing board, Mike Pender, the trainer of Asian Eyes, was fined $3,000.

Asian Eyes, a 10-1 chance, finished a neck behind race winner Dori's Prospect.

Clenbuterol is a bronchial dilator used to aid horses with breathing problems. It is permitted to appear in post-race tests at low levels.

* Clinton Potts, who sustained a neck injury in a spill during morning training on July 26, worked horses on Friday morning and is scheduled to ride on Sunday, according to his agent, Nick Cosato. Potts has not ridden since the spill.