AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Were the recent sixth-place finishes in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita aberrations, or a telltale sign that the son of Slew City Slew is beginning to show his age? We’ll know more late Saturday afternoon after Lava Man faces 10 rivals in the $250,000 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita, the signature race of California Cup XVIII – a 10-race stakes program worth $1.3 million that is restricted to Cal-breds. Lava Man will carry high weight of 124 pounds. He drew the 10th post Wednesday at Santa Anita’s Clocker’s Corner for the 11/8-mile test on Cushion Track, a race that drew only one other horse – 3-year-old gelding Celtic Dreamin – who has won a graded stakes race. On paper, it figures as a walk through the park for Lava Man, who has beaten much tougher foes both this year and throughout his career. But is this the same Lava Man, a horse that has banked more than $5 million since being claimed for $50,000 in August 2004 at Del Mar? “He’s doing really well in the mornings, he’s real energetic,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “Knock on wood, he’s sound, and we expect a big effort on Saturday. If not, he might need a breather.” HORSE RACING: Star gelding set for this weekend’s California Cup Classic. By Art Wilson Staff Writer Is Lava Man finished? Has the toast of the older handicap division reached the end of the line after an unprecedented run that saw the 6-year-old gelding win back-to-back Santa Anita Handicaps and a record-tying three consecutive Hollywood Gold Cups? Lava Man’s disappointing showing in the Pacific Classic as the 6-5 favorite can be attributed to the gelding’s disdain for Polytrack. His last-place finish in the Oak Tree Mile on the grass was more troubling because he’s shown a fondness for turf in the past. Still, O’Neill seems pleased with the opportunity to get the star of his barn back on a surface he’s likely to enjoy. Lava Man won his third consecutive Gold Cup over Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track on June 30, and Santa Anita’s new synthetic surface has been much kinder to speed horses than Polytrack. “Getting him back to 11/8 miles on a real firm surface should be just what we want,” O’Neill said. Morning-line oddsmaker Jeff Tufts installed Lava Man as the heavy 7-5 choice, followed by Bold Chieftain, with Russell Baze aboard, at 5-1. Celtic Dreamin, trained by Rafael Becerra, will be ridden by Garrett Gomez for the first time and is 8-1. Lava Man will be ridden for the 16th consecutive race by Corey Nakatani. Bold Chieftain, a 4-year-old son of Chief Seattle who has won six of 12 lifetime, comes in off a fourth-place finish in the Grade III Bay Meadows Breeders’ Cup Handicap at 11/8 miles on a turf course labeled good on Sept. 22. Celtic Dreamin has won five of six lifetime with one second and won the Grade III British Columbia Derby at Hastings Race Course in Vancouver by 51/2 lengths on Sept. 23 in his most recent start under jockey Gerry Olguin. The Cal Cup Mile on turf is the second richest race of the program with a purse of $175,000 and drew 12 starters, including defending champion and co-high weight Epic Power. Nakatani, tied with Alex Solis for the most Cal Cup victories at 16, has the mount. Three of the races carry purses of $150,000, including the Matron, for fillies and mares at 11/16 miles on Cushion Track; the Distaff, for fillies and mares at 61/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course; and the Sprint, for 3-year-olds and up. Somethinaboutlaura, the defending Matron champion, will carry high weight of 124 pounds and bring a four-race winning streak into the event. The 5-year-old mare, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, has won 16 of 28 lifetime and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza. firstname.lastname@example.orgWant local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!