HEADLEY REMEMBERS THE GREAT KONA GOLD
TOKYO CITY CUP WILL BE CELEBRATED SUNDAY
BAFFERT TO GIVE TALAMO A LEG UP ON ZATTER
SANTA ANITA HONORS KONA GOLD NEXT SATURDAY
Bruce Headley was born on Feb. 17, 1934, 10 months before Santa Anita opened on Christmas Day, 1934. More than eight decades later, both are still kicking.
Headley, best remembered as the trainer of Kona Gold, for whom next Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 sprint at 6 ½ furlongs is named, is still a fixture at Santa Anita, where his Aunt Flora brought him as a kid when he was five years old.
“I saw Seabiscuit and Kayak II run here,” Headley said, referring to the winners of the 1939 and 1940 Santa Anita Handicap, trained by “Silent” Tom Smith. “That’s how I got hooked on racing. My Uncle Ted was a security guard here. I was born in a house in nearby Baldwin Park that’s still there.”
Kona Gold was pure race horse. A Kentucky-bred son of Java Gold from the Slew o’ Gold dam Double Surprise, the bay gelding owned in part by Headley won nearly half his starts, 14 of 30, with seven seconds and two thirds, earning $2,293,384.
Sold as a yearling for $35,000, he was the champion sprinter of 2000, winning an Eclipse Award that year in which he captured the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs in a dazzling 1:07.60 for six furlongs. He raced until he was nine years old.
“He could run faster than anybody and he stayed sound,” Headley recalled. “He had real good bone structure. He was just an honest race horse and when he ran, he ran.
“When he got too old to race, he became a very good pony. He’d lead the horses back and forth to the track, and even though some of them had a wild brain, he knew he had a job to do and he did it.
“When he got too old to pony, I retired him to the Kentucky Horse Farm so everybody could visit him.”
Kona Gold was euthanized at the age of 15 on Sept. 25, 2009, after fracturing his left front leg while exercising in his paddock.
But for Bruce Headley and others of his ilk who sanctify the equine ghosts of Santa Anita, Kona Gold lives on in perpetuity.
LATEST CONTENT FROM XBTV:
Ax Man works 4 furlongs (Baffert) 4-13-19
Hunt works 4 furlongs (D’Amato) 4-13-19
A Day in the Life With Equine Therapist Tyler Cerin at Santa Anita Park
La Shirimp works 4 furlongs (D’Amato) 4-12-19
Melissa Jane works 4 furlongs (Powell) 4-12-19
Merger Arbitrage works 3 furlongs (D’Amato) 4-10-19
Mistressofthenight works 4 furlongs (Baltas) 4-10-19
FINISH LINES: Santa Anita presents the 15th annual Tokyo City Cup celebration tomorrow with a plethora of Japanese cultural events, performances and delicious cuisine . . . Bob Baffert has five of the 12 nominees to the Kona Gold Stakes, with Zatter a likely starter under Joe Talamo. Zatter, a four-year-old son of 2007 and 2008 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and 2007 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding sprinter Midnight Lute–trained by Baffert–has won two of five starts before finishing sixth in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes on March 30 . . . Kanthaka, third in the San Carlos in which he broke from the rail, is likely to return in the Kona Gold under Flavien Prat, according to Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward. Also probable for the Kona Gold is Sparky Ville, who worked five furlongs this morning in 1:03 under Ruben Fuentes for trainer Jeff Bonde . . . Among the 129 recorded workouts at Santa Anita was a four furlong move by Kona Gold nominee Ax Man in 48:40 for Baffert . . . Geovanni Franco, third at 53-1 in the Santa Anita Handicap on Mongolian Groom for trainer Enebish Ganbat, journeys to West Virginia next Saturday to be back aboard the Kentucky-bred son of Hightail in the $1 million Charles Town Classic at 1 1/8 miles . . . The California Horse Racing Board will conduct its regular monthly meeting 9:30 a.m. Thursday, April 18, at Santa Anita. The Medication, Safety and Welfare Committee will meet a day earlier on Wednesday at 10 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend both meetings. An audio-only webcast of the Thursday meeting can be heard through a link on the CHRB website ( webcast). The agenda and package of materials for the Board meeting as well as the agenda and package for the committee meeting also are available on the website.