Those that follow sports understand that sometimes players return to their game as a mentor. Coaching up those that follow you can give a rewarding feeling as you give back. That is absolutely the case for one of the most loved California-bred Thoroughbreds of all-time.

Lava Man burned his way into the hearts of many during the first decade of this century. Claimed by trainer Doug O’Neill, this gelded son of Slew City Slew found his best stride under the watchful eye of team O’Neill. Racking up 7 grade 1 wins between 2005 and 2007, he was no doubt the Man for his conditioner.

“He was a horse that had a lot of talent and we were able to take advantage of his abilities,” says O’Neill. “He won grade 1 races on synthetic, grass, and dirt surfaces which says a lot about his talent as a race horse.”

Lava Man also etched his name in the record books as the first horse to win the California handicap Triple Crown by taking the Santa Anita Handicap, Gold Cup, and Pacific classic all in the same year. But now the earner of over $5.2 million on the track is serving as one of the coaches for team O’Neill. As one of the stable horses, he leads the current horses in training into the paddock and onto the track for workouts and on race day.

“Even at age 18 this guy is as tough as nails,” says O’Neill. “He’s family to us and he is a valuable part of our team. He’s a legend and we love having him around. He’s a great example for our younger horses and he’s loving life right now.”