10/10/2006 12:00AM

Nakatani holding pat hand


ARCADIA, Calif. - Jockey Corey Nakatani had his best Breeders' Cup Day when he rode two winners in 1996 at Woodbine - Jewel Princess in the Distaff and Lit de Justice in the Sprint.

A decade later, that personal record may be about to fall.

Nakatani solidified his Breeders' Cup lineup last weekend, riding Lava Man to a victory in the Goodwood BC Handicap, a prep to the Breeders' Cup Classic, and Aragorn to a win in the Oak Tree BC Mile, a prep to the Breeders' Cup Mile. Add the Juvenile Filly prospect Cash Included, the Juvenile hopeful Great Hunter, and the 4-year-old filly Dancing Edie in the Filly and Mare Turf, and Nakatani could have a memorable day next month.

"It's what you work for through the year, to have an opportunity to win these races," he said.

Nakatani, 35, was supposed to have a big day last Saturday. Lava Man remained unbeaten in seven starts this year with a 2 1/4-length victory over Brother Derek in the Goodwood BC Handicap. Lava Man, trained by Doug O'Neill, goes to the BC Classic as the California circuit's best chance in the race.

"Lava Man is a special animal," Nakatani said. "There are no two ways about it. He's exceptional and we seem to fit together. He's setting the bar. It's remarkable to be part of that."

To win the BC Classic, Lava Man, 5, must beat the outstanding 3-year-old Bernardini, who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup convincingly at Belmont Park last Saturday. Nakatani is banking on Lava Man's experience as an older horse to be the difference.

"I've seen him a bunch of times on television and he's a talented 3-year-old," Nakatani said of Bernardini. "When 3-year-olds hook up with older horses, they're not as mature. It's tough for them. Hopefully, history plays to form."

Aragorn may be Nakatani's best hope for a win on Nov. 4. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Aragorn has won four consecutive turf stakes. He is the best turf miler in the United States, but must beat a solid European raiding party which could include George Washington.

Aragorn won the Oak Tree Mile by a length, and he was not urged by Nakatani in the final quarter-mile.

"I wanted to make sure he got a good race," Nakatani said. "I wanted it to be as easy as we could."

Of his other BC mounts, Nakatani is excited about the chances of Cash Included, the upset winner of the Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 30 in her first start around two turns. The win came at the expense of Point Ashley, the winner of the Del Mar Debutante last month.

Great Hunter won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Saturday. Victor Espinoza rode him in that race, but Nakatani has the mount for the BC Juvenile.

Nakatani has yet to gain a mount in the BC Sprint, Distaff, or Turf, according to his agent, Tom Knust.

New agent for Valenzuela

Patrick Valenzuela has a history of desiring an agent to work for him and him alone. When Valenzuela went to the sidelines this summer, his agent, Knust, picked up Nakatani. Knust had represented both riders since Valenzuela's return last month, but on Tuesday Valenzuela asked Knust to choose, and Knust chose Nakatani. Valenzuela hired Jim Pegram, who in turn dropped Norberto Arroyo, the rider Pegram brought to California from New York last summer.

"Patrick has been pretty adamant that an agent just represent him," Knust said. "I guess it was just a matter of how long it would last. When Patrick went down this summer, Corey was good enough to hire me, so there's got to be some loyalty there. Corey didn't have a problem with my having two riders."

Pegram worked for Valenzuela for approximately one year in 1995.

"What comes around goes around, I guess," Pegram said.

Lava Man will train on Polytrack

Lava Man was shipped from California to Kentucky on Tuesday to continue preparations for the Breeders' Cup.

O'Neill wants to train Lava Man on Keeneland's synthetic surface in the build-up to the BC Classic. The Classic will be Lava Man's first start outside of California since he finished 11th in the Japan Cup Dirt in Tokyo last November.

Lava Man has won seven consecutive starts in Southern California this year, but O'Neill admitted that "we have something to prove" about winning outside of California.

Citation next target for 'Cowboy'

Place Cowboy won Monday's War Chant Stakes over a mile on turf in his first start since late July at Del Mar. Several more weeks will pass before the 5-year-old Place Cowboy makes his next start, trainer Jim Cassidy said.

"He needs a break between races," he said.

Cassidy said that Place Cowboy will be pointed for the $400,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park on Nov. 24.

The layoff seemed to serve Place Cowboy well on Monday, as did trouble encountered by two leading rivals - Whilly and Quasimodo.

Place Cowboy rallied from fourth to win by a half-length over Unfurl the Flag. Whilly, who finished third, and Quasimodo, the 9-5 favorite who finished sixth, were in traffic on the turn, which hurt their chances.

Ridden by Nakatani, Place Cowboy ran a mile on turf in 1:32.87. Owned by Margie Gould, Place Cowboy has won 4 of 18 starts and $203,560. Monday's race ended a four-race losing streak dating back to an allowance race here in March.

Mistical Plan points to Cal Cup

Mistical Plan, the winner of last Sunday's $72,540 Cover Gal Stakes by an emphatic 7 1/4 lengths, will make her next start in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 28, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Owned by Paul Reddam, Mistical Plan was making her first start since finishing last of eight in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 4.

"She scoped after that race with a ton of mucus," O'Neill said.

In the Cover Gal, Mistical Plan finished seven furlongs in a quick 1:22.65, racing near the front throughout. In the California Cup Juvenile Fillies, she will be trying 1o1/16 miles for the first time.

O'Neill would like to see Mistical Plan take a more patient approach in her races, but she has considerable speed.

"We've been concentrating on getting her to settle," O'Neill said.

Morvich on tap for Pure as Gold

Pure as Gold, the Grade 1 stakes winner who finished fourth in the Ancient Title BC Stakes last Saturday, will make his next start in the $100,000 Morvich Handicap on the hillside turf course on Oct. 29, trainer Jack Carava said.

Pure as Gold emerged from the Ancient Title with cuts on a back leg, Carava said. The trainer said before the Ancient Title that Pure as Gold was doubtful for the BC Sprint at Churchill Downs.

Pure as Gold has won 3 of 4 starts on the hillside turf course in his career, including the San Simeon Handicap in April. He was claimed for $100,000 by Carava and La Canada Stables in June and won the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap in a 23-1 upset on July 30.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman