Only three foes showed up to challenge Kona Gold in last year's running of the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar, but on Saturday 10 rivals line up to face the defending champion. Kona Gold, now 8 years old, looks more vulnerable, having won just one race in five tries since last year's Crosby. Yet, the Bruce Headley trainee must still be respected.
Kona Gold has banked more than $2.1 million from 13 wins in 25 starts. In 2000 he won an Eclipse Award as top sprinter following his victory in the Breeders' Cup (gr. I). He is a fan favorite at Del Mar, where he boasts a perfect five-for-five slate.
But the six furlong, $200,000 Crosby field has come up macho strong. Speedy Men's Exclusive, a millionaire, looks to get back to his winning ways for conditioner Wesley Ward, and should be forwardly placed. D'wildcat, winner of the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II), is a force to be reckoned with. Mellow Fellow just had a six-race winning streak broken when he finished third in the Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park earlier this month. And Disturbingthepeace, who upset that contest for Darrell Vienna and owner David Milch, reappears here. Speedy Freespool won at Del Mar last year.
The Crosby goes as the sixth race. The field, in post position order with jockeys and weights:
1) Mellow Fellow (Laffit Pincay Jr., 118)
2) D'wildcat (Kent Desormeaux, 115)
3) Disturbingthepeace (Victor Espinoza, 116)
4) Komax (Garrett Gomez, 111)
5) Men's Exclusive (Martin Pedroza, 117)
6) Freespool (Mike Smith, 114)
7) Impressive Grades (Gary Stevens, 112)
8) Kona Gold (Alex Solis, 124)
9) Nuclear Debate (David Flores, 117)
10)Astonished (Tyler Baze, 114)
11)Mighty David (Matt Garcia, 110)