Updated on 09/15/2011 1:10PM

If it's Ancient Title, it must be 'Kona'


ARCADIA, Calif. - It would not feel like autumn without Kona Gold starting as the favorite in the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita.

For the fourth consecutive year, Kona Gold will be the public's choice in Saturday's Ancient Title, a vital six-furlong prep to the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park on Oct. 27.

This year, in the 17th running, Kona Gold will attempt to become the first repeat winner of the Ancient Title. Fifth in 1998 and second in 1999, Kona Gold was a three-length winner last year, a performance that led to a win in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

For the record, there are six starters in Saturday's race. Only Lexicon, the winner of the 1999 Ancient Title, has beaten Kona Gold.

The champion 2000 sprinter, Kona Gold has won his last seven starts, a streak that began in the Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap in April 2000 and includes last year's Ancient Title.

"I'm looking for him to run a good race," trainer Bruce Headley said. "I'm expecting a win."

Because of his consistency, Kona Gold will carry 127 pounds, the highest weight assignment in the history of the Ancient Title.

Strategically, Saturday's race works to Kona Gold's favor. He drew the outside post against a field that includes Freespool and Lexicon, both of whom have remarkable speed. Forest Camp is likely to be near the pace, while Swept Overboard and

I Love Silver are closers who need lucky trips.

"We need some help from the pacesetters," said Craig Dollase, who trains Swept Overboard. "A good effort or a win would put us in a spot to go [to the Breeders' Cup]. I think we'll have a lot of pace to run at."

Kona Gold, who will be ridden by Alex Solis, is expected to be a few lengths behind the pace, and use his typical three-furlong rally to reach contention.

"The only time he's ever run a bad race is when he's had bad luck," Headley said. "He got left in the gate in the Ancient Title in his fifth start and he still got beat only two lengths."

Unraced since winning defending his title in the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar in late July, Kona Gold has trained well in recent weeks, Headley said.

"A lot of horses get beat because they're high-strung, but he's not like that," Headley said. "He's one of a kind. I think a race will make him sharper."

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