Retired Racehorse Lava Man Back in Training after Stem Cell Treatment

Lava Man, the former claimer who earned more than $5 million, has returned to training at Doug O'Neill's Hollywood Park barn. The 8-year-old gelding worked three furlongs in :36 flat Sept. 23 at Hollywood, his first official work.

O'Neill, who claimed Lava Man for owners STD Racing Stable and Jason Wood, said Lava Man came into his Hollywood barn shortly after the Del Mar meeting closed Sept. 9.

"He worked unbelievable and cooled out fantastic," O'Neill said.

Lava Man was retired in late July 2008 after a sixth-place finish in the July 20 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar.

"The intent was to retire him because he was off form," said O'Neill. "He went to Alamo Pintado, where they did a lot of diagnostics on him. They thought they could do some things to help with new technology."

The Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Hospital in Los Olivos, Calif., works extensively in the area of stem-cell therapy. O'Neill said Lava Man underwent treatment, led by Doug Herthel, DVM, Alamo Pintado's founder. The gelding has been residing at Rich and Gaby Sulpizio's Magali Farms not far from the hospital.

"They did stem cell therapy on Lava Man's ankles," O'Neill said. "Dr. Herthel said that he has the ankles of a 3-year-old. His ankles look phenomenal."

Lava Man has been in training at Magali for about the last four months.

Lava Man breezing

Lava Man

"They'd been two-minute licking him, and he had a lot of miles on him before he came here," said O'Neill. "Tom (Magali, farm manager Tom Hudson) said that once Lava Man was put back in training, he was so much happier than when he was just hanging out at the farm."

O'Neill said that he will be taking Lava Man's training one work at a time, with no specific goal as to when the gelding would return to the races. Herthel will be visiting O'Neill's barn periodically to follow up on his star patient.

"If and when he comes back, it will be a great moment," said O'Neill. "Rest assured, he'll have been gone over a zillion times physically, and only then would we bring him back."

O'Neill added that he would donate his usual 10% training commission to the California Retirement Management Account so that retired Thoroughbreds would benefit.

(Originally published at  

About the Author

Tracy Gantz

Tracy Gantz is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She is the Southern California correspondent for The Blood-Horse and a regular contributor to Paint Horse Journal, Paint Racing News, and Appaloosa Journal.

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