06/20/2008 12:00AM

No Lava Man in Gold Cup?


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Lava Man is unlikely to try for an unprecedented fourth consecutive victory in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup next Saturday, trainer Doug O'Neill said on Friday.

Citing the three-week gap between Lava Man's third-place finish in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap on June 7 and the Gold Cup, O'Neill said that he was more likely to run Lava Man in the $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap over 1o1/8 miles on turf at Del Mar on Julyo20.

"I'm leaning against running him," O'Neill said. "It may be a little too quick back."

Lava Man's success in the Gold Cup from 2005-07 accounts for three of the seven Grade 1 races he has won in his career. Lava Man shares the record of most wins in the Gold Cup (3) with Native Diver, who won the race from 1965-67. A 7-year-old gelding owned by the Kenly family's STD Racing and Jason Wood, Lava Man has won 17 of 45 starts and $5,268,706.

Lava Man was the leading older horse in California in 2006 and 2007, the years in which he also won the Santa Anita Handicap, but he has struggled since winning the 2007 Gold Cup, losing five consecutive starts. In the Whittingham, he lost by a neck to Artiste Royal after leading to midstretch.

O'Neill said Lava Man could start in the Gold Cup, pending a conversation with the gelding's owners, but Steve Kenly said on Friday that the Gold Cup is doubtful.

"They want to do what's right by the horse," O'Neill said. "If he's coming out of his skin, we might run."

O'Neill said the Eddie Read was "a strong possibility."

Kenly said he was focusing on the Read, with the hope that Lava Man would run well and justify a start in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 24. "That's our number one plan," he said of the Read. "Then, maybe we could take on the big boys in the Pacific Classic.

The absence of Lava Man would leave seven probable starters for the Gold Cup, which is run over 1 1/4 miles. The race is led by Heatseeker, the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in March and the Californian Stakes here on May 31. Other probable starters are Big Booster, McCann's Mojave, Perfect Drift, Racketeer, Student Council, and Tiago.

Big Booster, winner of the San Juan Capistrano and Gallant Man handicaps in his last two starts, worked six furlongs in 1:16 on Friday, a slow workout that did not concern trainer Mike Mitchell. "That's about what he always does," Mitchell said.

Third in the 2007 Gold Cup, Big Booster is essentially running for second, Mitchell said.

"I think Heatseeker is the best older horse in the country, aside from Curlin," Mitchell said. "Second money is awful good."

Tiago worked six furlongs in 1:12.60, the fourth-fastest of 16 recorded works at the distance. Tiago has faced Heatseeker in each of his last three starts. Tiago was fourth in the Santa Anita Handicap, won the Oaklawn Handicap by a head over Heatseeker in April, and was second in the Californian.

Tiago worked in company with two stablemates and was ridden by jockey Mike Smith, who has the mount in the Gold Cup. "For Tiago, it's just about maintenance," trainer John Shirreffs said. "We want to keep him sharp."

Stable area staying open for Del Mar

Hollywood Park's stable area will remain open during the upcoming Del Mar meeting while Santa Anita's track undergoes a massive renovation, according to Hollywood Park general manager Eual Wyatt Jr.

Santa Anita plans to renovate its synthetic track in advance of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting this fall, which includes the Breeders' Cup races on Oct. 24-25. Details of the renovation have yet to be announced.

Because of the large number of Thoroughbreds based at Southern California tracks and limited capacity at Del Mar, Hollywood Park will stay open during the summer to accommodate trainers that are not based at Del Mar.

Hollywood Park had intended to do maintenance in its barn area this summer, and will proceed with the plan even with horses on the grounds. "We have maintenance that we need to do and we'll do it as we can," Wyatt said.

Pick six pool has $500K guarantee

Hollywood Park is offering a $500,000 guaranteed pick six pool for Gold Cup Day on June 28. Earlier this year, the track cancelled a $1 million guaranteed pick six pool for Memorial Day, citing a disappointing guaranteed pick six pool on California Gold Rush Day, April 27.

Hollywood Park guaranteed the Gold Rush Day pool would reach $1 million, but only $981,195 was wagered into the pool. The track made up the difference.

Wyatt said there was a possibility that a guaranteed pick six pool will be offered on the July 5 card, which features two $750,000 races, the American Oaks and CashCall Mile.

Daytona heads American Handicap

The Gold Cup is one of four six-figure stakes on next Saturday's program, but the only Grade 1 race. The $250,000 American Handicap over 1o1/8 miles on turf is led by Daytona, the winner of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on May 26.

The $150,000 A Gleam Handicap for fillies and mares over seven furlongs features Intangaroo, the winner of two Grade 1 sprint stakes this year, and Magnificience, who is unbeaten in three starts.

The probable starters for the $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-old fillies over six furlongs are led by Trifecta King and Atka, the first two finishers of the Cinderella Stakes on May 25, and the impressive maiden race winners Cosmic Queen and Glitter City.

Smokey Lonesome gets barn started

Trainer Richard Matlow got a rare win this year when Smokey Lonesome captured a five-furlong maiden special weight on Thursday. Making his second start, Smokey Lonesome ($23.40) rallied from sixth to win by a head over Candy Lion in 56.99 seconds.

Spaniard, the 4-5 favorite trained by Bob Baffert, ran sixth in the field of 10 after being bumped at the start.

Smokey Lonesome had finished fourth in his debut on May 22. A gelding by Teton Forest, he is likely to be pointed for the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 10, Matlow said.

Matlow, who has won with 2 of 21 starters this year, has a stable dominated by 2-year-olds, and illnesses have affected his runners, he said. He expects to have a significant number of starters in the coming weeks at Hollywood Park and early at Del Mar.

On Sunday, he starts Tammy's Luck in the ninth race for statebred maiden 2-year-old fillies. "She's been working good," he said. "I give her a chance."