08/02/2003 12:00AM

Fogelsonger heading West

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Young jockey Ryan Fogelsonger, the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice in 2002 and the nation's third-leading journeyman rider this year with 209 wins, will move his tack from Maryland and begin riding full-time in Southern California in early September.

Fogelsonger, 22, based at Laurel, confirmed the move in a telephone conversation Saturday. "If you want to be a Jerry Bailey, or a Pat Day, or a Chris McCarron, or an Edgar Prado, you have to go to New York or California," Fogelsonger said. "That's what I want to do, and the way to do that is to come to California."

Fogelsonger will arrive at an opportune time, following the recent retirements of Hall of Fame jockeys Laffit Pincay Jr., Eddie Delahoussaye, and Chris McCarron. Fogelsonger said he will ride in Maryland through the end of the Laurel meet on Aug. 22, serve a seven-day suspension, and arrive in California on Sept. 4. He will start to ride regularly when the Los Angeles County Fair meet at Fairplex Park begins Sept. 12.

The idea to relocate has been on Fogelsonger's mind since January, when he traveled to California to be presented the Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice. Fogelsonger met with McCarron, who began his career in Maryland. "[McCarron] got the thought in my head, and I've been thinking about it for a month," Fogelsonger said. "Some people in Maryland don't want to see me go, but who's to say the opportunity will be there in a year? It's there now."

Agent Michelle Barsotti, who has worked for Brice Blanc, Garrett Gomez, and Mark Johnston, will handle Fogelsonger's book. It was Barsotti who carved a niche for Johnston on the California circuit until June, when he returned East for personal reasons. Johnston recommended Fogelsonger contact Barsotti, and he met her for the first time when he flew to California for the Hollywood premiere of "Seabiscuit."

Fogelsonger will try to follow the footsteps of McCarron, Prado, and Kent Desormeaux, former Maryland riders who became national leaders in California and New York. Fogelsonger began riding in May 2002, and by the end of the year had won 267 races. Trainer Dale Capuano, who has been instrumental in Fogelsonger's success, suggested the jockey might be attempting to make the transition to a major circuit too soon.

"He said I might be a little early," said Fogelsonger. "McCarron, Prado, and Desormeaux rode for a few years in Maryland first. But I'm ready for it. It's been one of the hardest decisions I've had to make, but I've got a lot of momentum. My name's been out there for a while."

Fogelsonger, 5 feet 3 inches tall, tacks between 106 and 107 pounds.

Farewell day for Kona Gold

Kona Gold, the champion sprinter of 2000 whose retirement was announced last week, will be honored on Saturday at Del Mar.

Kona Gold, 9, will be paraded between races and videos of his victories in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs and 2001 Bing Crosby Handicap over this track will be played.

Kona Gold finished fifth in the Bing Crosby on July 26. A few days later, co-owners Andrew and Irwin Molasky and trainer Bruce Headley announced Kona Gold's retirement following a career of 14 wins in 30 starts and earnings of $2,293,384

Turf races highlight Monday card

Two grass races for fillies and mares highlight Monday's eight-race program.

Solar Echo, an impressive winner of her last two starts, makes her grass debut in a $63,000 optional claimer over a mile in the fourth race. In the seventh race, Relish, stakes-placed in Ireland last year, makes her U.S. debut and first start for trainer Eoin Harty in a $58,000 allowance race over 1 1/8 miles.

Solar Echo will be a heavy favorite against six rivals, including Final Discount and Silky Summer, winners on turf at Churchill Downs in their last starts; and Sharpbill, the third-place finisher in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 7 at Hollywood Park.

Relish drew the outside post. She won a maiden race over 1 1/4 miles at The Curragh in her debut and later finished third in a minor race at Gowran Park. She was ninth in a minor stakes last October.

"She's trained very well here, all the way up to the race," said Alex Hassinger, assistant to Harty. "She's been good in every respect, very good works and very level-headed."

The entry of Dessert and Desert View will go favored. Dessert is coming off a second in a one-mile allowance race at Hollywood Park on May 24. Desert View finished third in her U.S. debut on July 16.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen