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Speculation

This week has already seen its share of speculation about Lava Man’s future after his last-place finish in the Eddie Read Handicap; his connections seem to be leaning very strongly toward his retirement.

It seems clear that the 7-year-old gelding is past his peak as a racehorse; his recent effort was his sixth loss in a row. His last win, in the Gold Cup, was very hard-fought indeed and some suggest that it may have taken the wind out of his sails to a certain extent.

However, Lava Man himself seems to be following the path recently blazed by Funny Cide — he clearly thrives on training and life at the track, but doesn’t seem as interested anymore when it’s time for a real race. Given all that he has accomplished (going from $50,000 claimer to over $5 million in earnings), it seems that the timing may be right for him to emulate Funny Cide yet again and become a stable pony. While not specifically outlining that strategy, trainer Doug O’Neill sounds ready to make the call:

“It’s so frustrating because he trains so well and he looks good physically,” O’Neill said. “But at the same time, he’s a fan favorite, he’s lost six in a row and just to retire him sound would be a good feeling.

“Unofficially, he’s retired in my mind, but the owners want some time to think about it.”

Some may suggest that a stall is waiting for him at Kentucky Horse Park (and, indeed, that might be a good place for him at some point down the line), but given his determined efforts not to win outside his California home (and everyone knows a Californian who has tried, and failed, to live elsewhere, only to wind up back in California), I would keep him with his friends at Santa Anita, but perhaps in a new role. Green But Game asks what you would do with Lava Man here.

In the meantime, Curlin (whose own more official poll continues until the end of July) worked out at Saratoga over a sloppy track; his younger stablemate Pyro also took to the mud in a workout for the Jim Dandy on Sunday — Saratoga is almost upon us…

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