While Kona Gold rightfully deserves the majority of the attention in the sprint division following his Eclipse Award-winning season in 2000, it's stablemate Son of a Pistol who will be defending his crown in the 63rd running of the grade I San Carlos Handicap Sunday.
Son of a Pistol handed Kona Gold his only defeat in six starts in last year's San Carlos. Incidentally, it was Son of a Pistol's only win of 2000.
Son of a Pistol is already in the books for setting the track record for 6 1/2 furlongs (1:13.71) in 1998 as a 6-year-old. On Sunday, the Kentucky-bred gelded son of Big Pistol will be bidding to become the first 9- year-old to win a stakes race at Santa Anita since Softshoe Sure Shot won the 1995 San Carlos at odds of 18-1. Softshoe Sure Shot, a California-bred by Bolger, was also conditioned by Bruce Headley.
"We beat Cardmania and Bertrando that day," beamed Headley. "If we can get the job done Sunday, we'll have the (San Carlos) hat trick."
Only four 9-year-olds have won stakes races at the "Great Race Place" since the track opened for business on Christmas Day of 1934 - Olhaverry (1948). Desert Chief III (1965), Super Diamond (1989) and Softshoe Sure Shot.
"For a horse of his age, he feels like a million dollars," said Headley. "I nominated him for the Hong Kong race last year and at that time, the vet told me he was the soundest horse he'd seen."
Son of a Pistol served notice with his last work Feb. 22, drilling five furlongs in :59, the best of 77 working at the distance that day.
Both Headley runners were scheduled to complete preparations with a three-eighths blowout Thursday but the work has been postponed until Friday, according to Headley.
"It's just too muddy," Headley said Wednesday, adding that Kona Gold might stay in the barn Sunday unless the weather takes a turn for the better.
Kona Gold has been assigned highweight of 125 pounds, one less than he carried to his Breeders' Cup win. Son of a Pistol, meanwhile, will carry 114 pounds.
Probable to the grade II, $150,000 San Carlos Handicap, with jockeys and weights: Kona Gold, Alex Solis, 125 pounds; Son of a Pistol, Garrett Gomez, 114; Dixie Dot Com, David Flores, 114, and Grey Memo, no rider, 113. Possibles include: Blade Prospector, Omar Berrio, 112, and Regal Thunder, no rider, 115.