Alex Solis knows Kona Gold as well as he knows any horse, so when he says the 2000 Breeders' Cup Sprint champion is better than ever, take heed.
Kona Gold, an 8-year-old gelded son of Java Gold, worked five furlongs in :58.40 under Solis at Santa Anita Monday morning in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Arlington Park on Oct. 26. This would be Kona's Gold's fifth consecutive Sprint appearance.
Solis could barely contain himself after the drill.
"He worked in :57 4/5, according to the private clockers," Solis said of the winner of 13 of 24 career starts, with earnings of $2,133,864. "He never has been working this good. He's working out of this world. It's so amazing how fast he's working and how easily he's doing it. He's coming into this race so good. I've never had him working this good. He's really coming out of his skin and he's working incredible."
Kona Gold is owned in part by Bruce Headley, who also trains the Kentucky-bred bay. Headley also conditions another Sprint contender, the 6-year-old mare Kalookan Queen, who is scheduled to work four furlongs on Tuesday.
In other Breeders' Cup developments:
--Buffythecenterfold's chances of running in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies improved from 70-30 Sunday to "85-15" Monday morning, according to trainer Mel Stute. "We're moving up," he said. "I'm pretty sure we're going to go." Matt Garcia would ride Buffythecenterfold, giving the San Jose native his first Breeders' Cup mount. "It will be an experience," Garcia said. "God willing we'll run well. Mel's not in the Hall of Fame, but he's in there in my eyes. Both Mel and (his older brother) Warren have been very dedicated to me and I've been dedicated to them."
--Trainer Nick Canani said he is passing the Breeders' Cup Mile with Oak Tree Mile winner Night Patrol in favor of the Citation Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park on Nov. 30. "He loves Hollywood," Canani said of the son of Storm Patrol, who won the Inglewood Handicap (gr. III) and was second in the Charlie Whittingham Handicap (gr. I) there last summer. "He's been the type of horse that really doesn't like to ship," Canani added. "When he was back East, he shipped around to the different tracks, and he seems to like California better. He loves it here and he likes time between his races. If I ran in the Breeders' Cup, it would cut my time off of running at Hollywood, and he loves that turf course."
--After working at Hollywood Park Monday, Explicit will skip the Sprint and be pointed to the Hong Kong Sprint on Dec. 15, trainer Ian Jory said from his Hollywood headquarters. "He ran down again in the workout, just like he did in the Ancient Title and at Saratoga (in the Forego Handicap on Sept. 1)," Jory said. "It's the same leg, his left fore. We'll give him a breather and get him right again and look to run in Hong Kong." The Hong Kong Sprint is a five-furlong straightaway dash on the grass, with a $1.2 million purse. The winner's share is $730,000. "He broke his maiden on the turf," Jory said of the 5-year-old son of Distant View. "He can handle it."
--Undefeated Vindication, one of the favorites for the Juvenile, worked seven furlongs in company with Sugar Babe at 12 noon Monday at Santa Anita under jockey Mike Smith. Vindication was clocked in 1:23 4/5, with fractions of :24 1/5, :47 4/5, :59 2/5 and 1:11 1/5. He galloped out a mile in 1:37 for trainer Bob Baffert.
--Sprint candidate Disturbingthepeace is scheduled to work five furlongs on Wednesday under his regular rider, Victor Espinoza. "Then we'll have one more work at Arlington," said trainer Darrell Vienna, who plans to ship on Saturday. Asked why Espinoza would work the streaking stakes winner, rather than an exercise rider, Vienna said, "It's just for Espinoza, not for the horse. The horse has been working so deceptively fast, I wanted Victor to get an idea (of how he's going)."