No Horse Park for Kona Gold, Headley Says

Champion sprinter Kona Gold, who was retired after a fifth-place finish in the July 26 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar, will not be sent to the Kentucky Horse Park to join the Hall of Champions there, trainer Bruce Headley said.

Headley sent the former Eclipse Award-winning sprinter to his Southern California ranch from his Del Mar stable at 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 10.

The Lexington, Ky., equine-themed park had approached Headley and his wife, Aase, who co-owns the 9-year-old Java Gold gelding with Andrew and Irwin Molasky, about adding him to the Hall, which also houses former Horses of the Year Cigar and John Henry. But after several days of consideration, the conditioner decided it was in Kona Gold's best interests to keep him in California, where he was based throughout his six-year career.

"He'll stay here," Headley said. "Nobody in California wants me to send him there, so I'm not going to. I'm going to turn him out in a nice, large grass pasture at my house for about a year or so and then make him a pony, just like Son of a Pistol.

"It's going to take him a while to wind down, but he was always a very easy and good-natured horse so I don't think it'll be a difficult transition."

Kona Gold's career, which ended with an impressive record of 30-14-7-2 for earnings of $2,293,384 and a victory in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) in record time, was celebrated at Del Mar Saturday between the afternoon's third and fourth races.

Jockey Alex Solis, who was aboard for all but two of his 30 career races, rode Kona Gold one final time from the paddock to the track where he was paraded in front of the grandstand to the cheers of thousands of fans.

"It was sad, it was hard," Solis said of the final appearance. "He was the greatest horse I ever rode. But it was the right thing to do. Now he can enjoy the rest of his life."