Trainer Doug O’Neill says the comebacking Lava Man is getting closer to his first start, which he says could be the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park on Dec. 12. The popular 8-year-old gelding worked six furlongs Saturday morning over Hollypark’s Cushion Track in a bullet 1:20.20 under Joel Rosario.
“He worked in company, broke about three lengths off, ranged up in mid-work and finished strong,” O’Neill said. “The Native Diver is the game plan.”
* Garrett Gomez, who escaped serious injury in the ninth race Saturday after he was thrown under the inner rail when his mount, Bonnie Brown Eyes, fatally broke down in the final sixteenth of a mile, took off Sunday’s mounts.
Gomez’s agent, Ron Anderson, said his client had X-rays on his shoulder and elbow that were negative and he was released early Saturday night from Centinela Hospital in Inglewood. Anderson said Gomez was “a little jarred up” but that he’s expected to return to action this week.
* Victor Espinoza and Mike Smith will miss part of next weekend’s Turf Festival because of out-of-town riding commitments. Espinoza will be at Churchill Downs on Friday to ride Misremembered for trainer Bob Baffert in the Clark Handicap, and Smith will be aboard Stardom Bound at Aqueduct on Saturday for the Gazelle Stakes.