Kona Gold, sprint Eclipse Award winner.

Kona Gold, sprint Eclipse Award winner.

Guy Jenkins

Eclipse Awards: Sprinter: Kona Gold

Kona Gold's pedigree

A new track and race record in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) and five graded stakes wins for the year helped in Kona Gold's unanimous selection as North America's top sprinter for 2000. Kona Gold was a finalist in the sprint category in 1999, but finished in a tie for second with Forestry and Mazel Trick behind the champion, Artax.

Trained by co-owner Bruce Headley and ridden in all his races by Alex Solis, the now 7-year-old gelding won five of six starts in 2000 and placed second in the other, earning $1,042,630 for the year.

In winning the 2000 Breeders' Cup Sprint, Kona Gold ran six furlongs in a blistering 1:07.77, shattering the 14-year-old Churchill Downs' track record of 1:083Z5 in the process. His finishing time also broke the Sprint record of 1:07.89 set by Artax in 1999 at Gulfstream Park. Not only did he win the Sprint in record time, he also became the first Sprint horse to have finished the race in all top three positions. He finished third in 1998 and second in 1999. His win also gave Solis his first Breeders' Cup victory in 32 tries.

Kona Gold began his season with a two-length victory over rival Big Jag in last January's Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II). He followed that up with what would be his lone loss of the year, a second-place effort in the seven-furlong San Carlos Handicap (gr. II), finishing a nose behind Son of a Pistol. Kona Gold was hooked every step of the way and was out-nodded on the line by the winner run on the Big 'Cap undercard at Santa Anita. The pair were side by side as they covered the final three furlongs in less than :36; the final time was 1:22.11. The sprinter then moved on to the Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) a month later at Santa Anita. He covered the 6 1/2-furlong course in 1:14.75, beating Old Topper by an easy 4 1/2 lengths.

After three straight races, it was time to give Kona Gold a break before bringing him back to the track with all eyes focused on the Breeders' Cup. After a brief vacation, he returned in July at Del Mar to win the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) by three-quarters of a length over Love That Red, making him four for four lifetime at the seaside oval. His next start was a repeat of the final 1999 prep for the Breeders' Cup, the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), in which Kona Gold coasted to a three-length win over Regal Thunder.

Headley owns Kona Gold with Irvin and Andrew Molasky and G. Michael Singh's High Tech Stable. Headley purchased Kona Gold from his breeder, Carlos Perez, at the 1995 Keeneland September yearling sale for $35,000.

Kona Gold was prepared to start his career as a 3-year-old, but a knee chip put his first start on hold until late spring of his 4-year-old season. Kona Gold has made just 17 lifetime starts, with nine wins to his credit. After some rest, he will return to action in Southern California to begin a title defense in 2001.