01/02/2003 12:00AM

Kona Gold's win eases Solis's pain


ARCADIA, Calif. - Alex Solis walked through the Santa Anita stable area beaming on Thursday morning.

"I'm undefeated this year," he shouted to a friend.

Considering the week that Solis just experienced, the enthusiasm was understandable.

On Saturday, after winning the La Brea Stakes on Got Koko, Solis was involved in a frightening one-horse spill that left him hospitalized overnight with a concussion.

Solis did not ride on Sunday or Tuesday, but returned on Wednesday and scored with both of his mounts - Academy Spy in an allowance race on turf and Kona Gold in the El Conejo Handicap.

The win on Kona Gold was particularly satisfying for Solis, who has ridden the 9-year-old gelding in all but one of his 27 starts. They teamed to win the 2000 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs. The El Conejo was Kona Gold's 11th stakes win.

"He's a unique horse," Solis said.

Kona Gold broke from the rail in the El Conejo, which was run at 5 1/2 furlongs. Outrun to the turn, Kona Gold was briefly last, but Solis guided him along the rail in early stretch and Kona Gold launched a rally that caught the front-running Radiata in the final 50 yards. Kona Gold won by a neck in 1:02.63.

"I wanted to get him to the outside because it's easier for him, but I never got the chance," Solis said. "He saw the hole and he's such a good soldier that he went for it."

By design, Solis had only two rides on Wednesday. "I didn't want to ride too many to see how I feel," he said. "I feel good."

On Saturday, Solis rides eight of the nine races on the card, including Kudos in the San Pasqual Handicap and Elaine's Angel in the Pro or Con Handicap.

Kona Gold's next: Palos Verdes

Kona Gold's victory in the El Conejo Handicap made him the fifth 9-year-old to win a stakes at Santa Anita, and first since Softshoe Sure Shot won the 1995 San Carlos Handicap.

Trainer Bruce Headley trained Softshoe Sure Shot, and has had Kona Gold in his stable throughout the gelding's career. On Thursday, Headley was left admiring Kona Gold's performance.

"The way he ran on the inside shows he'll run anywhere," Headley said. "He's got the heart of a champion and he still loves running."

Headley co-owns Kona Gold with Irwin and Andrew Molasky. Headley on Thursday said he intends to start Kona Gold in the $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap at six furlongs on Jan. 26, Super Bowl Sunday.

Kona Gold won the 2000 Palos Verdes and was second to Big Jag in 1999. "He may have lost a step, but he has a lot of desire and he loves to win," Headley said. "He's the same old Kona, just a little older."

Valenzuela to appeal suspension

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela on Thursday said he intends to appeal a three-day suspension he received after his mount was disqualified for causing interference in Sunday's seventh race.

Valenzuela was suspended from Wednesday through Friday of next week, but an appeal would allow him to ride until a hearing is conducted.

In November, Valenzuela missed the first 15 racing days of the Hollywood Park fall meeting after he dropped appeals of suspensions that had accumulated from the second half of 2002.

Two assistant trainers move up

Two former assistant trainers - Dal Jones and Adam Kitchingham - are in the process of building stables and going out on their own.

Jones, 31, a former assistant to David Hofmans and Bob Hess Jr., and Kitchingham, 28, a former assistant to Jim Cassidy, have claimed horses in the last month as a way to launch new outfits.

Jones has two horses in his stable and says he will expand soon.

Kitchingham claimed Moving's Gold for KM Stables on Wednesday for $25,000. A native of Australia, Kitchingham said he has 2-year-olds arriving soon and hopes to have five horses in training by the spring.

D'wildcat, Spring Meadow on target

Hess will have leading contenders in two late-January sprints.

D'wildcat, the winner of the De Francis Dash, is being pointed for the Palos Verdes Handicap.

Spring Meadow, the runner-up in the La Brea Stakes, is being pointed for the $200,000 Santa Monica Handicap over seven furlongs on Jan. 25.

Even though the Santa Monica is a Grade 1 race, it will not be the focus of the Jan. 25 program. On the same day, Santa Anita is hosting four races worth $250,000 to $750,000 in the Sunshine Millions series between California-breds and Florida-breds, and is putting nearly all of its early season promotional efforts behind the new series.

Disturbingthepeace works

Disturbingthepeace, the winner of three consecutive major stakes last July and August, worked four furlongs in 51.80 seconds on Thursday. His participation in the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita is questionable after he suffered a grabbed quarter while training for the Great State Challenge at Sam Houston Race Park on Dec. 7.

"It's a very tight schedule, but there is a chance," trainer Darrell Vienna said.

Pincay ends mini-slump with bang

It did not take long for Laffit Pincay Jr., to break out of a slump. After winning one race in his first 21 mounts, Pincay had three-win days on Tuesday and Wednesday to tie Valenzuela atop the jockey standings at seven wins.

Pincay has seven mounts Saturday, including Native Diver Handicap winner Piensa Sonando in the San Pasqual Handicap.