Lava Man, the 8-year-old gelding who retired from racing last year, is now returning to racing and indefinitely postponing his retirement after showing significant improvement from autologous adult stem cell therapy.
Having dominated the California handicap division for the better part of 2 years, winning 7 Grade 1’s and earning $5.2 million in the process, Lava Man was forced into retirement last fall due to "declining form" which was caused by recurring ankle problems. Now, after having undergone several months of autologous adult stem cell therapy, the horse is showing improved physical condition, his ankle is no longer bothering him and he was able to return to the track two weeks ago for the first time in over a year.
Administered by Dr. Doug Herthel of Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center, the monthly stem cell procedure was found to successfully regenerate cartilage in Lava Man’s ankle, thereby allowing him to begin light exercise in the spring and summer. According to the horse’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, "Training was part of the study, which we agreed to. He’s been in training for three months, and they have been raving about him." Prior to receiving the adult stem cell therapy, Lava Man was scheduled for retirement at Old Friends in Kentucky, but the retirement has now been postponed indefinitely due to the horse’s significant improvement and resumption of his racing career. Owners Steve Kenly and Jason Wood have confirmed that the horse is now noticeably ready and eager to return to racing. As Kenly stated, "He was telling us, don’t send me to Kentucky. This horse wants to train, probably more so than most horses."
Acquired by STD (Steve, Tracy and Dave Kenly) Racing Stable in August of 2004 for $50,000, Lava Man showed initial improvement with his new trainer O’Neill and went on to sweep the 2006 Grade 1 handicap races in California, which included the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup, and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. A 3-time winner of the Gold Cup, Lava Man last raced in July of 2008, returning to Hollywood Park in September of this year, and is now continuing to progress noticeably.
As Kenly explains, "We have his best interests in mind, and if he tells us anytime he doesn’t want to do this, that’s it," adding, "Either he competes at the highest level, or nothing."
According to O’Neill, if Lava Man is able to return to a full racing career such as that which he had previously enjoyed, then O’Neill would personally donate all of his trainer purse earnings to the racehorse retirement foundation CARMA.
The autologous adult stem cell therapy that Lava Man has been receiving would seem to indicate that the horse will not be ready for retirement for quite some time.