Meet Hall-of-Famer LAVA MAN
"Coach" Lava Man plays such a special role in our barn now that he is retired from racing. Affectionately known as “Coach", Lava Man is a member of both the California Hall of Fame and the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.
Lava Man ran his first race as a 2 year old in June of 2003 - a $12,500 maiden claiming race at the San Joaquin County Fair. It was a slow career start as he lost his first few races. But a switch to turf really showcased his potential as he began winning allowance races at Golden Gate Fields.
His trainer at the time did not have many options for places to run, so Lava Man was entered into a $62,500 claiming race at Del Mar. He finished a disappointing 6th place and was dropped down a notch. His next race was a $50,000 claiming race, where he was claimed by Doug O’Neil.
Lava Man began to flourish. He took home the Derby Trial Stakes and finished second in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes. After a few disappointing races, Doug thought a change was in order. So, he decided to run the horse with blinkers on. From there he won a $100,000 claimer, the Grade 2 Californian Stakes, and the $750,000 Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup. These successes culminated with a third place finish in the Pacific Classic.
After some much-deserved rest, Lava Man had back to back wins in the $1,000,000 Sunshine Millions Classic, $1,000,000 Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, Khaled Stakes (where he set a new track record for 1 1/8 mile), Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, The Hollywood Gold Cup and his success continued. He was named "Horse of the Meet" for the 2006 Del Mar racing season and the Oak Tree Racing season.
In January 2007, he won his first start of the year in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf by two lengths. Later in March of the same year he repeated his 2006 victory in the $1,000,000 Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap (becoming only the third horse to do so). After running poorly in Dubai and finishing second in the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, he came back to win the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup for his third consecutive year and set a new course record for 1 1/4 miles on the new Hollywood cushion track surface (With his win on cushion track, he became the first horse to win Grade 1 races on three different surfaces: conventional dirt, turf, and cushion track).
In January of 2010, Lava Man's retirement was announced, but Team O'Neill was reluctant to part with this special horse. So he was made a 'coach' much to everyone's pleasure! He was inducted into the National Museum of Horse Racing's Hall of Fame in 2015.
In his post-racing role, he has the opportunity to take youngsters to the track every morning and show them the ropes. Lava Man still gets many visitors on a daily basis and we are proud to call him part of the team!