Kona Gold to be Tested in Palos Verdes

Kona Gold to be Tested in Palos Verdes
Photo: Benoit
Kona Gold, in Sunday's Palos Verdes.
(from track reports)
Kona Gold had his final breeze over the Santa Anita main track Friday morning for Sunday's $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) for older horses at six furlongs.

Jockey Alex Solis is as fond of the 9-year-old gelding as ever. They have been a successful team for years. Solis has ridden the son of Java Gold in 26 consecutive races, in fact, all but his first start.

"He's always been a nice, kind horse, never crazy," Solis said after Kona Gold went three furlongs in :38, breezing. "He's always just loved to run. I think he appreciates it more now that he has more experience.

"Bruce (trainer Bruce Headley) just wanted to go nice and easy with him but I had to keep him four-wide, because he was a tiger today. I couldn't get him pulled up. On the way back after the work, Bruce was jogging next to me and Kona was bucking and kicking and very frisky."

The 124-pound top weight in the field of eight Sunday is coming off a neck victory over Radiata in New Year's Day El Conejo (gr. III) at 5 1/2 furlongs Santa Anita in 1:02.63. Kona Gold will spot that one 10 pounds this time.

Solis' lengthy association with Kona Gold has developed a sincere affinity for the big bay.

"He's my favorite horse and one of the ones with the most personality, for sure," Solis said. "He's so full of confidence and has such a big desire to win. It sounds crazy to talk like that about a horse to people who don't know about Thoroughbreds. But he loves to win and he loves the competition. That's the truth."

Disturbingthepeace and Echo Eddie are coupled in the wagering. Barring an unexpected change in the weather that could result in an off track, Echo Eddie will run in the FedEx Sprint in the Sunshine Millions on Saturday, leaving Disturbingthepeace to carry the colors of Herrick Racing LLC and Rita and David Milch.

Disturbingthepeace was seventh in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) in his last start on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park. Jockey Victor Espinoza expects the 5-year-old California-bred son of Bold Badgett to return to the form that enabled him to reel off six consecutive victories before the Breeders' Cup.

"A couple horses squeezed me coming out of the gate," Espinoza said of the Breeders' Cup start. "It was the first jump, and after that he was too far back and on that track, you have to be close, especially going three-quarters. There's not enough ground left to make up a big deficit.

"The horse has a big heart and he likes to win. He's always focused in the race, so I would have to throw out the Breeders' Cup. And coming back after some time off, he's going to be good. I hear he's training very well."

Disturbingthepeace worked four furlongs Thursday morning in :46.60.

Doug O'Neill, hoping to improve Avanzado's focus Sunday, opted for blinkers this time.

The Argentine-bred 6-year-old had his mind on other matters when he finished sixth in the Jan. 1 El Conejo Handicap at 5 ½ furlongs, O'Neill said.

"He was kicking the back of stall when the gates opened so we got left," O'Neill said. "Basically, it cost him a couple lengths. He only got beat (four lengths). We've added blinkers since and he's training really, really well. This will be the first time he's run in blinkers. He's doing super."

D'wildcat was also entered Friday.

$150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap, 4 & up, 6 furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Wgt.
1. *Disturbingthepeace, Victor Espinoza, 120
2. Radiata, Julie Krone, 114
3. Kona Gold, Solis, 124
4. Mellow Fellow, Laffit Pincay Jr., 114
5. Avanzado, Tyler Baze, 116
6. *Echo Eddie, David Flores, 118
7. D'wildcat, Pat Valenzuela, 120
8. Hombre Rapido, Jose Valdivia Jr., 114
(*) Herrick Racing & Milch entry

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