Kona Gold, champion sprinter of 2000, was to board a plane in California Tuesday and fly to Maryland to take on Xtra Heat, the local heroine, in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Nov. 17 at Laurel Park.
Bruce Headley, Kona Gold's trainer, said Monday he had decided to send the 7-year-old gelding cross-country after a blazing workout at Santa Anita Park. Traveling with Kona Gold to run in the De Francis Dash will be the speedy Caller One and the lightly raced Early Flyer. They will join a prospective seven-horse field that includes the New York-based Delaware Township in what could be one of the year's top sprint races.
"This is the best I could have hoped for," said David Rollinson, Laurel stakes coordinator, who recruited the field.
Xtra Heat, the 3-year-old filly stabled at Laurel, finished second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint Oct. 27 at Belmont Park. Caller One finished third, Delaware Township sixth, and Kona Gold, the favorite, seventh.
The De Francis Dash, a six-furlong event worth $300,000, will highlight an afternoon of six stakes at Laurel. The Dash is one of only three grade I stakes in Maryland. The others are the Preakness and Pimlico Special.