- Last Updated: 2:58 AM, June 5, 2012
- Posted: 1:42 AM, June 5, 2012
I have a four-legged assistant coach named Lava Man. He and I’ll Have Another are best buds. They have a special bond, and when I’ll Have Another moves into the stakes barn, Lava Man will go with him.
Lava Man is a gelding I claimed for $50,000 in 2004. He ended up earning over $5 million, winning seven Grade 1’s including the Pacific Classic, two Santa Anita Handicaps and the Hollywood Gold Cup three times. He was the first horse since Affirmed to win the Big Cap and the Gold Cup in the same year. How’s that for an omen?
After we retired Lava Man in 2010, we decided to make him a stable pony. One of my team, Sabas Rivera, did a great job re-breaking him, teaching him, after five years of being asked to stretch himself out, to relax and be a mentor.
It’s been a real pleasure to watch Lava Man transform from a great race horse to a great morning pony, and now chaperon to a Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.
We like to think that Lava Man has given I’ll Have Another some good tips. One of I’ll Have Another’s great characteristics is that he handles everything without any worries, and I think having the pacifier of a champion horse like Lava Man alongside him has definitely brought out the brilliant personality and confidence that he has even more.
Horses definitely communicate. You’ll see Lava Man with younger horses that are misbehaving and bouncing around, and he quickly corrects them.
Like humans, you’ve got to program them a certain way. If you program them the wrong way, you’ll have headaches every day, and Lava Man is a huge part of programming them going to and from the track.
I’ll Have Another is great proof of that.Follow @NYPostsports