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EVEN before I started covering horse racing in the Southland, I’d always dreamed of what it would be like to own a race horse. Not a star race horse, mind you, just any ol’ race horse. A $10,000 claimer would be just fine, thank you. A victory in the fifth race at Santa Anita with a purse of $16,000 for someone like me would be like winning the Kentucky Derby. I mean, you think trainer Nick Hines puts on a show when he wins? Heck, they’d be calling him Mr. Melancholy after the display I’d put on in the winner’s circle. Boring, you say? Why not try something different, you ask? Try telling many in the on-track crowd of 43,000-plus last weekend that Lava Man’s victory was boring. I doubt many would be sitting on their hands come June at Hollywood Park if he’s allowed to go for a third consecutive victory in the Gold Cup. Ditto Del Mar if he runs again in the Pacific Classic. Lava Man has turned into one of the most popular horses in the Southland. He’s a great drawing card, something that racing badly needs. So what if he’s never won outside California? If he wins the SoCal Triple Crown again and then, God willing, stays healthy and goes for an unprecedented third Big ‘Cap victory, well, Lava Man will become a legend around these parts. They might even make a movie about him. Word came down Wednesday that the Lava Man camp is deciding between the Dubai race and the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on May 5 at Churchill Downs for the horse’s next race. Guys, don’t do it. If you really need to prove to skeptics that Lava Man can ship out of state and win, do it at the end of the year at the Breeders’ Cup. Let his fans revel in his successes here locally. Let them enjoy their hero and not have to worry that a major illness or one fatal misstep abroad could mean they never see him race again. Lava Man already has done great things. He can do even more and doesn’t need to be shipped halfway around the world to do them. Keep him home. Let the fans enjoy one of the sport’s few stars. If Lava Man is retired one, two or three years from now and he’s never won outside of California, let the naysayers scream and shout that he couldn’t win on the road. Let them whine about his record and how it doesn’t include a victory that wasn’t recorded in the Southland. I mean, what’s wrong with the title King of California? firstname.lastname@example.org (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2103 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I bring this up not because I want to talk about my dreams of being a thoroughbred owner, but because I’ve thought a lot about what I would do if I did own a horse. Who would I want to train it? Who would be my rider? Would I be a know-it-all owner and try to interfere with a trainer who knows more than I do, or would I let him or her make the calls? All these thoughts resurfaced last weekend after Lava Man, the best claim in racing history, joined John Henry and Milwaukee Brew as the only two-time winners of the Santa Anita Handicap. After the race, during a press conference in the director’s room, owners Steve and David Kenly and Jason Wood talked about their marvelous gelding and what they wanted to do next with him. The consensus seemed to be a 11/8-mile turf race in Dubai for $5 million on March 31 seemed awfully tempting. Yes, $5 million is enticing, downright delicious even. But is it wise to ship a 6-year-old gelding to Dubai, a horse who is 0 for 4 outside of California, in search of more riches when he’s already earned a record $4.3 million since being claimed for $50,000 in August 2004 by three gentlemen who, up to this point, have for the most part made all the right decisions? Lava Man did something last year no horse has done. He swept the three major handicap races in Southern California – the Big ‘Cap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar – in the same year. Winning one of the three is a major accomplishment, but scoring a hat trick was something that will etch Lava Man’s name in the record books forever. What could be better, huh? Well, how about sweeping all three in back-to-back years? Lava Man is in a position to do just that if he’s allowed to stay in California, take a break until Hollywood Park and then embark on a similar schedule as last year’s, when he won two grass races leading up to the Gold Cup and captured the Pacific Classic and Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Oak Tree before his ill-fated effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.