07/28/2003 11:00PM

Kona Gold to horse park?


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kona Gold, whose retirement from racing was announced Sunday, could end up at the Kentucky Horse Park alongside racing greats John Henry and Cigar.

The Kentucky Horse Park, which spotlights those champions in its daily Hall of Champions show, is on the list of possible destinations for Kona Gold, a 9-year-old Java Gold gelding.

"There's been a lot of discussion about it and a lot of interest, but it is still in the discussion stage," said the park's executive director, John Nicholson. "I think we'll know more once Saratoga is over."

The Kentucky Horse Park Foundation's chairman, Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson, is heading up discussions with Kona Gold's owner and trainer, Bruce Headley. Headley also reportedly is considering using Kona Gold as a lead pony at the racetrack after giving the gelding some time off at a farm.

Kona Gold won the Breeders' Cup Sprint in 2000 to earn that season's sprint championship. An earner of $2,293,384, Kona Gold was retired after he finished fifth in Saturday's Bing Crosby Handicap, which marked his first loss at Del Mar. He has a lifetime record of 14-7-2 in 30 starts, and is the only horse to run in five consecutive Breeders' Cups. Kona Gold competed on the championship day from 1998 to 2002. Headley campaigned him in partnership with Andrew and Irwin Molasky.

"When you talk about the special nature of the Hall of Champions and the great nature of the racehorses who have been there, Kona Gold is a perfect fit," said Nicholson. "He's got a great story, and he's a great horse. We'd love to have him as part of our family."