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The Big ’Cap: Lava Man set to win again?
by Handicappers ( / Globeform (
Last update: 2007-03-03 06:22:28 (First published: 2007-02-25 18:10:14 )

Santa Anita 3 March: He will run. Last year’s winner, California’s undisputed king Lava Man goes for back-to-back wins in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1).

Trainer Doug O’Neill has been lobbying for a lenient weight this past week and, when he was assigned 124 pounds, O’Neill said ”it’s a fair weight”. Yes it is.

If there is an improver among his opponents, it is likely to be one of the 4-year-olds coming out of the Strub series. But they have not looked top class, and Lava Man will be a deserving favorite and hard to beat. Only two horses have won two Big ’Caps on the trot, the unforgettable John Henry in 1981-82 and the somewhat forgettable Milwaukee Brew in 2002-03.


Santa Anita 3 March 2007 – 10 furlongs dirt

Top ranked horse on 100, with others ranked down in pounds.
Horses presented with sire, career best Globeform and likely rider.

100 – LAVA MAN (Slew City Slew) GF 126 / C Nakatani
..98 – ARSON SQUAD (Brahms) GF 117 / G Gomez
..98 – SPRING AT LAST (Silver Deputy) GF 115+ / D Flores
..98 – BOBOMAN (Kingmambo) GF 115+ turf / A Solis
..96 – BALL FOUR (Grand Slam) GF 114 / J Leparoux
..96 – MOLENGAO (Royal Academy) GF 114 / V Espinoza
..95 – AWESOME GEM (Awesome Again) GF 113+ / T Baze
..93 – McCANN’S MOJAVE (Memo) GF 112 / F Alvarado
..93 – EL ROBLAR (War Chant) GF 109 / R Migliore

DOWNLOAD horse presentation of the LAVA MAN from the Globeform Annual now (in pdf-format) by clicking Lava Man Essay

Lava Man is difficult to oppose – though his win over Icy Atlantic in the Sunshine Millions Turf was not much of a test. It was a soft spot, and a good starting point, just like his win in the 2005 Sunshime Millions Classic, which he used as a well paid prep for the Big Cap, where he beat Magnum by ¾ length, with Wilko third. A similar performance can make him a back-to-back winner of this famous event.

Arson Squad came with a late, strong run up by the rail to beat Spring at Last by 1 ¼ lengths in the 9-furlong Strub Stakes (G2), and he will be suited by this step up in distance. Sitting a bit off the early pace, under Garrett ”can-do-no-wrong” Gomez, Arson Squad won the event quite readily, going away at the wire. It was not a top class contest though. We have seen better editions of the Strub. The gelded son of Brahms had finished only eighth in the Malibu (G1), but ran better when fourth in the San Fernando (G2). Bruce Headley’s charge beat A.P. Warrior readily into third place when he won the Swaps Stakes (G2) over 9 furlongs at Hollywood Park last July. His Strub win was better than any of his previous performances.

Spring at Last (Silver Deputy), returned to form in his first race fitted with blinkers, but stretching out to 1 ¼ miles may not be what he ideally wants. He was up with the speed throughout in the Strub, and it needs noting that he won over a mile last fall.

Boboman is much more ’fun’ to promote in our exotics plan – and quite an interesting runner. He is making his dirt track debut, but he won on heavy turf in France, and he has a big, big stamina advantage over many of these rivals. This is his essay in the Globeform Annual:

A son of the top class miler and excellent sire Kingmambo, Boboman has not been easy to train – but his connections have been very patient with this talented turf runner, and kept him on the team. When we got to the Hollywood Turf Cup (G1) last December, we could all see why. He was racing for only the tenth time in his career, he was making his first start in a stakes event, of any description, and he was 9-1 in the betting. But he won. He was our second choice in the race, behind favored T.H. Approval (who sustained and injury and finished seventh).

While one turf star was forced into retirement, another emerged and, given that Boboman is allowed a trouble free campaign, he can become even better than T.H. Approval in 2007. He ran out an impressive winner of the Turf Cup, coming from well off the pace to reel in the early leaders in the stretch, and lead half a furlong out. He won by a length from Runaway Dancer, who also came from the back of the eight-runner field. Artiste Royale and Meteor Storm ran a dead heat for third. This success was significant improvement on Boboman’s previous form, but he had won his two preceding races in taking style, beating Conall Carnagh easily by 4 ¾ lengths at Santa Anita, and One Off readily by 1 ¼ lengths at Hollywood Park (both over 1 ¼ m. turf).

Bred in Kentucky, Boboman began his career with Criquette Head-Mareek in France in 2003,
when he won a minor event over 9 furlongs at Longchamp (heavy ground) on his fourth and final start as a juvenile. He next appeared at Santa Anita in March 2004, when never a factor over 6.5 furlongs. Not very surprising perhaps, but Boboman was out of action for 30 months after that US debut. He made his comeback at Del Mar in July, where he ran third in a pair of mile races in the summer, before stepping up to more suitable distances.

Trainer Richard Mandella has an excellent record with older horses that have needed time, and required recuperations from set backs, and Boboman is just his sort of runner. This is an interesting recruit to the turf division. Yes, he will be six years old in 2007, but remember, this guy has just had ten races since his lifetime debut back in August 2003. There is probably better still to come from Boboman, who was effective on heavy ground in France but has been much better on firm in California.

His first race in 2007 was a total flop, as Boboman finished last behind One Off in the San Marcos (G2) here in January – but we are willing to forget about that race. A slow pace ruined his chances completely, and he was not given a hard race by his rider once it was obvious that he could not make an impact. Boboman needs a stron pace, and he makes a lot of appeal in is this speed loaded field. Look for him to roll past tired rivals in the last half-mile. Could he be Lava Man’s toughest rival?

Ball Four ran close to his career best when losing by just a head to Molengao in the 9-furlong San Antonio Handicap (G2) here a month ago. He is a pound better off at the weights, but the added furlong is much more to Molengao’s liking – and he will probably beat Ball Four again.

Awesome Gem, a fast finishing second to Kip Deville in the one-mile Sir Beaufort Stakes (G3) in December, followed up by winning the San Fernando (G2) over 8.5 furlongs in January (again from off the pace) and he may have been placed a bit too close to the early speed when fifth in the Strub Stakes (G2).

McCann’s Mojave was an upset winner of the Sunshine Millions Classic, where a couple of more talented runners ran below form, and he has been given an unfair weight here. After all, he beat Summer Book by ¾ length at level weights. Is that really as good as Boboman’s Grade One win, or just a length below the form shown by Arson Squad in the Strub? Probably not, and McCann’s Mojave’s front-running style also makes this a tough task for him.

El Robar was readily beaten when third to Molengao in the San Antonio (G2) and, though he has two wins over this course, he seems out of his depth in the Big Cap.



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