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Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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August 4, 2010     Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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III][].[:l  Q:Ji[jil ![::J  ,liJl  IIILii[ll IIIIIILII i[l[|[ :I].]ILJi!tlI[|I-L!J,q.IPtI[IlJLI lU:K!ilII:U.I: lallillld llll p I l ltilplamj ti,aL! llalj .l!  q al, ;lli pJip :t!ai lmr]mltqt uut;.a q:luLlulWUlJliilll .. PHil 4B Wednesday, August 4, 2010 SPORTS The Spirit of Jefferson Actually claimed at two, Lava Man went on to earn $5 million BOB MADISON Sports Editor. The story of thoroughbred Lava Man had the trappings of a Hollywood movie made for Fam- ily TV or the Hallmark Channel. It seemed appropriate that he came from the claiming ranks and went on to a career-closing earnings figure of $5,268,706 be- cause he was California-bred and had nearly all his on-track suc- cess at California tracks. The family tree of Lava Man showed Slew City Slew and Se- attle Slew on one side and Nos- talgia's Star on his dam's side. But when he began as a two- year-old there was no way pos- sible anybody could have pro- jected the bay gelding as a career winner of over $5 million. His first owners had a spread in Northern California they called Popular Meadows Ranch. Lon- nie Arterburn, Eve Kuhlmann and Kim Kuhlmann were those responsible for breeding Slew City Slew to L'il Ms. Leonard, a gentle soul whose success on the race track was hard to trace. He was named for a triathlori that was held annually in Ha- waii. Eve Kuhlmann, a tfiathlete herself, was responsible for the nanle. The Popular Meadows Ranch planners weren't convinced that Lava Man was going to be any- thing special. They brought him to a county. fair for his first race. Not many Eclipse Award champions have their beginnings on the county fair circuit. Lava Man at the San Joaquin County Fair. It was in June of 2003 and his initial race ag a two-year-old had him entered in a $12,500 claiming race on a dirt surface that is found at all coun- ty fairs. He finished a disappoint- ing fourth. And nobody put in a claim for him, so he was vanned back to Popular Meadows Ranch to await his next race. After his first try, LonnieArter- burn said: "He's a big, long-strid- ing horse that never gets tired. But he is so laid back he could be a pony. He didn't show any- thing in the mornings. I took him to Stockton to get him a race and not get him claimed away." A writer for the Daily Rac- ing Form said of Lava Man in 2002, "Lava Man did not start his career on the other side of the tracks. He started his career in a place (Stockton) where there are no tracks." There were two more races on dirt. And Lava Man was 0-for-3 in quick order. The calendar rolled to 2004 before Lava Man was given an- other race. And his next time out, Arterburn brought him to a grass race.., and then another try on the turf. He placed and even won in allowance races at Golden Gate Fields in Northern Califor- nia. Arterbrun ran out of options for Lava Man on the Northern California circuit. So he went to the San Diego area and placed him in a $62,500 claiming race at Del Mar. "We had no other place to run him so we took him south. It was the usual Northern Galifornia problem." Again, there was no claim made on Lava Man. His sixth- place performance didn't make him the talk of the backstretch at Del Mar. With the lowly sixth-place fin- ish fresh in the minds of the Pop- ular Meadows Ranch trio of plan- ners, they dropped Lava Man into a $50,000 claiming race at Del Mar. A group calling themselves STD Racing Stable consulted with Jason Wood and they per- suaded a trainer named Doug O'Neill to place a claim ticket for Lava Man in the box for that $50,000 heat at Del Mar. Trainer O'Neill believed Lava Man was much better suited to running on the grass . . . so he kept him there. There was a win in the Derby Trial Stakes at a place called "Fairplex" and a second behind Rock Hard Ten in the Grade I Malibu Stakes. The runner-up finish just be- hind Rock Hard Ten gave train- er O'Neill reason to believe Lava Man just might be growing into his long-legged body and ready to deliver some consistently strong performances. But when 2005 dawned (and Lava Man was four), the tracta- ble gelding could not win in his first three tries. O'Neill thought blinkers could possibly make a difference. Lava Man might keep his "mind" on his business if not distracted by shadows, activities around him and the positioning of other hors- es during races. Like the Popular Mead- ows Ranch people before him. O'Neill made a calculated move that could have cost him his pro- tege. He entered Lava Man in a $100,000 optional claiming race. The race went off. And there was no claim made.., as Lava Man HANDRIDEPHOTO came home the winner. O'Neill placed Lava Man in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup. That race would later be judged as the beginning of a new era in the racing career of the good-na- tured thoroughbred. At the finish line of that $750,000 stakes race, Lava Man had virtually run away and hid from the others. He won by a stakes-record margin of eight lengths. The five-year-old had never raced outside the state of Califor- nia. O'Neill and his owners decid- ed to send Lava Man east after he couldn't win any of his next three races. But in the Jockey Club Gold Cup he was back in seventh SIMILAR PHOTO place. The traveling had just begun. It was off to Japan for the Ja- pan Cup Dirt. The questioners quizzed O'Neill about the trip on the dirt in a foreign country. There was no need for any ex- planation on the strategy because an abscess was found on Lava Man's left front foot. That was it for 2005. In 2006, the first race on the docket was the $1 million Sun- shine Millions Classic, a, race re- stricted to California or Florida- bred thoroughbreds. Lava Man won easily, but received no hur- rahs from the press. The media waited for the $1 million Grade I Santa Anita Handicap. In that race, Lava Man would face High Limit, Mag- num, Giacomo and Wilko among others. Lava Man prevailed by three-parts of a length. In his next two starts on the grass there were successes in the Khaled ,Stakes and the Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap. The Lava Man O'Neill team faced a crossroads. If the six-year-old could repeat in the Hollywood Gold Cup, he would be only the second thor- oughbred (the other was Native Diver) in history to win the race more than once. Despite stumbling at the start, Lava Man moved close to the lead and managed to poke his nose in front in mid-stretch. He held the margin to the finish.., joining Native Diver as a repeat winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup. Lava Man also joined Af- firmed as the only two horses to win both the Santa Anita Handi- cap and the Hollywood Gold Cup in the same year. Daily Racing Form columnist Dick Jerardi wrote, "Nearly 27 months after his first visit to Hol- lywood Park Racetrack (finish- ing last at 57-1 odds in the Snow Chief Stakes), Lava Manwas the 3-5 favorite in the Grade I Hol- lywood Gold Cup. This about as close to Seabiscuit as this sport has seen since Seabiscuit." The gelding was still racing in 2007 where he came through with wins in the Sunshine Mil- lions Turf at Santa Anita, where a crowd of 36,000 was a record crowd for that race, and the Santa Anita Handicap. An attempt to win the $5 mil- lion Dubai Duty Free Stakes was planned. Dubai is a distance of ground from California. And Lava Man showed his usual form when racing away from the West Coast sun and surf He was 16th and last in the $5 million race. Returning to California; Lava Man had another victory in the Charles Whittingham, his third success in that well-attended, well-thought-of race. In the late summer of 2007, California's tracks all had some type of artificial surface.., and a sixth-place finish at Del Mar in the Pacific Classic confirmed the idea that Lava Man needed to stand his ground on the turf if anywhere. Several more lacklustrer races' completed the 2007 season. After being examined at a med- ical center in early 2008, Lava Man recorded a pair of third- place efforts. He had x-rays per- formed on both front ankles and easily-seen changes were noted from similar pictures taken ear- lier in the year. Lava Man was "retired". But O'Neill kept him to a light training regimen. There was a re- turn in .late 2009. But there was also a last-place finish. A second (and permanent) re- tirement was announced. O'Neill made the cooperative Lava Man a stable pony that ac- companied his other horses in California-race post parades. Lava Man left racing as the third highest-winnings horse from California, behind only Best Pal and Tiznow. Impressive stuff from a thor- oughbred that had been entered in a $12,500 claiming race to be- gin his years-long adventures on the race tracks of the world. Once claimed for $50,000. He returned that investment 100- fold when he won 17 of 47 ca- reer starts and brought in over $5 million to those that had plunked down the $50,000 to claim him. Less of Albert feels the sting of ringmaster/coach Shanahan BOB MADISON Sports Editor The Mike and Less of Albert Show has begun. Albert Haynesworth finally finds his way to Ashbtrn and the Redskins training camp.., and he comes in a reported 30 pounds lighter than last seen back in the late winter. But Mike -- the ringmaster of the Less of Albert Show re- fuses Albert's overtures at want- ing to dig right in and get to find- ing a feel for the newly-installed 3-4 defense. Mike motions to Less of Al- bert that he has a nasty little con- ditioning drill he wants his inher- ited millionaire to tackle. Less of Albert fails the condi- tioning trial.., and Ringmaster Mike scuttles the 292-ponnder's plans. Mike goes about his first day of summer camp as if Albert isn't the most important thing in Ashburn on the bright and civi- lized day. Haynesworth shuffles slowly to the sidelines and is told to wait until the 70-minute ses- sion has been completed. When the others have left the practice area, Albert is seen moving at a concentrated pace through a se- ries of three trash cans turned on their tops to simulate offen- sive linemen turned teacups over backside by a pancake block. There seems to be more than one way to get your on-field, classroom learning. And there seems to be more than one way for the Ringmas- ter to get his message across to his less-than-before (in girth and creases in his stomach rolls) stu- dent. So goes the first practice day of the Mike the Ringmaster era at Redskins Park. Nobody was injured. Only Albert's feelings might have been hurt. But for a $21 million signing bonus, Albert can float through the trash cans for a day. Mike seems to realize that his tenure with the Redskins is his last roundup. If he leaves Wash- ington, he won't be asked to shoulder the weight of another recalcitrant 292-pounder. He won't be asked to do much of anything concerning the NFL except possibly write a ghost- written book about how he drove through the snow in Denver and asked the man dressed in a barrel at Mile High Stadium where best to park his SUV at the field. He could spar with other ex- NFL'ers on a pre-game show or on some radio program down in New Zealand. Coach Mike made his state- ment. He didn't consult with owner Dan Snyder. He knew it was just a symbol. Or gesture. But it did show there will still be no bygones between him and Less of Albert. The camp shakedown was one of routine and little else. What can be accomplished in 70 min- utes by men in shorts? Mike made sure the only story line of any significance was the punishment received by Albert. When will Albert pass the con- ditioning test and be allowed to practice with his mates? His al- ready strained relationship with many of the veterans might have been slightly improved. DeAngelo Hall, never one to toe the company line, said of the conditioning drill Albert was re- quired to attempt, "There were a lot of players that had been here for the 'volnntaD" workouts that couldn't have passed that drill." London Fletcher and Phil- lip Daniels took a less tolerant stance when they reminded those gathered of Albert's unexcused absences. Coach Mike has demoted Less of Albert to the role of irregular (backup) as he tries to enter th)'s training camp. Albert doesn't know the defense. He doesn't even have a pre-camp position. Will he be a nose tackle and sacrifice himself to the blockers? Or will he be moved outside to a defensive end (tackle) spot where his less-than-fast forward move- ment is, in theory, supposed to reach opposition quarterbacks and give the team sack after sack and disruption after disruption. On that first day of nearly-full squad workouts, there was noth- ing mentioned about the compe- tition among the offensive line- men where rookie Trent Wil- liams (Oklahoma) has to be a starter and has to be effective or Washington's line will be inef- fective again. There was nothing seen hap- pening in the defensive backfield where there is an unsettled situ- ation at safety and neither of the projected starters at comer has ever been mistaken for Deion Sanders or Darrell Green. Brian Orakpo proved to be a play-making linebacker, but Lon- don Fletcher is in his 13th season and Andre Carter and Lorenzo Alexander have yet to be effec- tive for more than an instant or a play. Washington's special teams situation could turn into a mo- rass. Neither place-kicker Gra- ham Gano nor punter Josh Bidwell has any competition as camp opens. Gano has kicked four field goals in his one-year NFL "career." Even with no other faces in camp, the competition for both those positions will be heated. Either Gano or Bidwell could lose out to somebody not even associated with the Redskins. Coach Mike has named Clinton Portis his starter at running back. But the Ringmaster didn't bring Larry Johnson and Willie Parker to town because of his deep trust in the man he cast off to Wash- ington when he was coaching the Broncos. The holes found without even looking on a 4-12 team are still there in strong numbers. Where is there any wholesale strength? Only at the box office it would seem. If Less of Albert has found the key to his riddle of lack of stami- na and lack of endurance.., and did enough high-stepping to pass his rigorous conditioning test.. he will be allowed back to prac- rices. Will he carry his play book everywhere he saunters? Will he carry his reduced appetite in his back pocket as he pass- es by the Wendy's, Arby's and Green Turtle's near the facility where he does his conditioning drill? Will Mike the Ringmaster speak his mind? His real mind? And tell the truth about the bur- gundy and gold shipwreck he found in the woods surrounding Redskins Park? At least he has won the first skirmish with his absentee mil- lionaire. At least he has made his first salvo over the bloated bow of the Good Ship Albert. ZELEvANSKYPHOTO I00llll0000nril=ilii=lil00lBll|[r/lrl00illllllll00IH|'lllll00l|lllllllll/li|li iMllil00ll Irl ! ]IIE00I llll: 'I 1 , TI lti '1, t1" rl|l | 1 I I[IF00 r'lll|il00lR ifl II TI r