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Champion Lava Man to Retire at Old Friends

GEORGETOWN, KY—SEPTEMBER 4, 2008— Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility based in Georgetown, KY, is proud to announce that racing legend Lava Man will be permanently pensioned at its 92-acres Dream Chase Farm. The Kenly Family’s STD Racing Stables (Steve, Tracy, and Dave Kenly) and Jason Woods, who jointly own Lava Man, agreed earlier this week to send him to Old Friends, and arrangements have been made for his arrival in the Bluegrass on Sept. 16.

Campaigned by trainer Doug O’Neill, the 7-year-old gelding was retired from the track in July due to unfavorable front-foot x-rays. He ended his career with over $5.2 million in earnings and seven Grade 1 wins, a number unparalleled among California breds.

“From the beginning, Steve and everyone associated with this amazing athlete have done what's best for Lava Man,” said Old Friends founder and president, Michael Blowen. “I can't tell you how thrilled we are that they’ve entrusted the care of this unbelievably talented champion to us.”

“Michael called us about retiring Lava Man, and he was just so energetic and excited,” said Steve Kenly of STD. “I didn’t think there was that much interest in the horse outside of the West Coast, and Michael just said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ We’re not blue-blood, we’re not the uber-wealthy,” Kenly continued. “Lava Man is a small guy’s horse and Michael is a small-guy’s farm, so we thought it was a perfect fit.”

Sporting a name that foreshadowed his volcanic rise, Lava Man has been called the “greatest of all claimers,” having erupted from the lowest of racing ranks into a stakes-winning champion in little more than a year. Throughout his career he captured 17 of 46 starts. His striking string of victories includes three consecutive wins in the Hollywood Gold Cup (equaling the presumed unmatchable record set by Native Diver in the 1960s), the 2006 Pacific Classic, the 2006 and 2007 Santa Anita Handicap, and both the Sunshine Millions Classic and the Sunshine Millions Turf.

Lava Man (Slew City Slew-L’il Ms Leonard, by Nostalgia’s Star) was bred by Lonnie Arterburn, Eve Kuhlmann, and Kim Kuhlmann at Popular Meadows Ranch near Sanger, California. A dark bay foal, he was born in March and named after the annual Lava Man Triathlon that’s held that same month in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

Originally trained by former jockey Arterburn, the horse began his career as a 2-year-old in a $12,500 maiden claiming race at the San Joaquin County Fair in 2003. A switch from dirt to grass initiated a move up the ranks, and the 3-year-old Lava Man was eventually claimed for $50,000 by O’Neill at the urging of his owners. Launching his stakes career with a win in the 2005 California Stakes, the horse soon went from claiming to Reigning King of the California circuit, inspiring the turf press to dub him a modern day Seabiscuit.

His name is now intrinsically linked with numerous historic “firsts.” He is the first horse to sweep Southern California's three biggest races--the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup, and the Pacific Classic--in a single season. He is the first horse to equal Native Diver’s record of three consecutive Hollywood Gold Cup races. He is the first in a generation to win a Grade 1 race on dirt and turf in the same year, and he is the only horse ever to win a North American Grade 1 race on dirt, turf, and synthetic surface.

On Sept. 16, Lava Man will be flown from California to Lexington courtesy of H.E. Tex Sutton Forwarding Co., where he will be met by Sallee Vans and driven the short distance to the Georgetown farm. There he will join the near 30 other retirees, including Eclipse winner Sunshine Forever, champion sprinter Ogygian, eight-time stakes winner Ruhlmann, and fellow California hero Special Ring. An event celebrating his arrival is currently scheduled for Oct. 7 at Old Friends.

“The attention and notice a superstar like Lava Man brings to our organization is multi-fold,” noted Blowen. “It’s the champions that attract tourism and donations; in turn that helps us care for the many geldings and mares we have also retired that are not bold type. We’re really looking forward to meeting Lava Man’s many admirers here at the farm.”

For more information please contact Old Friends at (502) 863 1775.

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that is home to nearly 30 retired racehorses. It’s Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. For more information on tours, reservations at the Old Friends B&B, or to make a donation, contact the farm at (502) 863 1775 or see their website at http://www.oldfriendsequine.org .

 

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