Eclipse Award winner Kona Gold.

Eclipse Award winner Kona Gold.

Guy Jenkins

Kona Gold Back on the Track

Headley, Molasky and Molasky's Kona Gold, 2000's Eclipse Award-winning sprinter, worked Tuesday for the first time since getting a brief vacation and logged three furlongs in :36 1/5 handily over Santa Anita's fast main track. The 9-year-old son of Java Gold finished third in the Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) in his last start March 29.

After his last race, trainer Bruce Headley decided to give Kona Gold a brief freshening and turn him out at his nearby farm where he was allowed to clean up the trainer's back yard, which had grown thick over the winter with Bermuda grass and clover. After spending more than three weeks there, Kona Gold was returned to Headley's Santa Anita base late last month to resume training.

"He's something, isn't he?" Headley said. "He was very quiet when he left, but is really feeling great now. He squeals a little both going to and coming back from the track now."

Headley had become increasingly critical of the weight assignments handed to Kona Gold with each start, citing the fact that the gelding had only won twice in six starts dating back to the beginning of his 2002 season. He was the 121-pound highweight in the Potrero Grande, giving away six pounds to the winner, Bluesthestandard. Kona Gold hasn't carried less than 121 pounds since January of 1999 and has frequently spotted as much as 15 pounds to his rivals.

"I think they started (this year) out to high for him." Headley said. "He had to have all the luck to win with those weights and giving so much away. He may not be as fast as he used to, but he still wants to win. With the Breeders' Cup here at least it'll be equal weight.

"It's amazing to me the kind of fans he has; he's owned by one person and trained by another, but everyone treats him as if he's their horse. People from all over have feelings for this horse from just watching him. He's a cool horse, that's for sure."

Headley said Kona Gold will return to action in the July 26 Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar, a six-furlong race he won in 2000 and 2001. After that, the conditioner will take things one race at a time with many of the decisions made depending on weight assignments.

"Even though he's nine years old, it's not what he's done in the past it's what he does now."

Champion Kona Gold has earned $2,289,384 from a career line of 29-14-7-2. His greatest career triumph came in 2000's Breeders' Cup Sprint, but he's also won 10 more graded stakes and placed in eight others, setting two track records in the process.