02/25/2003 12:00AM

Kona now needs lighter load


ARCADIA, Calif. - Nine-year-old Kona Gold carried 124 pounds when he finished off the board in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap, nearly six lengths behind 6-year-old Avanzado, who carried 116. Kona Gold's trainer, Bruce Headley, did the math. "Eight pounds, six lengths, three years - that's a set-up for subtraction," Headley said, "There's got to be some [weight] subtracting in there."

Headley has until Sunday to decide if three pounds is sufficient relief for Kona Gold. He has been assigned 121 pounds for the Grade 1, seven-furlong San Carlos Handicap, in which he would concede five pounds to likely favorite Crafty C.T. and Aldebaran, each assigned 116. Avanzado was assigned 117, but is expected to pass. Once upon a time, Kona Gold could have conceded weight and still won.

"Everyone can see he's not the same Kona, but he's still trying," Headley said. "He's still good enough to compete, but his past cannot be mixed with his present because of his age."

Although he won the Grade 3 El Conejo one start back on Jan. 1, Kona Gold required a ground-saving trip to win a four-horse blanket finish, and is not as fast as he was in his prime. As Headley said: "Age creeps up, he's getting old."

Kona Gold has won 14 of 28, and earned more than $2.2 million. If he starts in the $200,000 San Carlos, Kona Gold will face Aldebaran and Crafty C.T.; Grey Memo, 115; Mellow Fellow, 114; and So Urgent and Total Limit, 112 each.

Injuries to 'Hennessy' only minor

A bad stumble at the start of the race cost 4-1 second favorite Roll Hennessy Roll all chance in the Grade 3 Baldwin Stakes last Sunday at Santa Anita, but trainer Rafael Becerra considers it fortunate the colt did not sustain a serious injury in the turf sprint.

"I'm just glad to see him back in one piece; if he had been wearing toe-grabs, he might have ripped off his quarter really bad."

Despite cutting the inside of his right front leg when he stumbled, Roll Hennessy Roll rallied from last to finish fifth. When he returned to be unsaddled, Roll Hennessy Roll's leg was bleeding, but he did not require stitches. Becerra said the colt was expected to miss only a week of training. Roll Hennessy Roll won the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue in November, and is considered one of the top 3-year-old sprinters in California.

Becerra will start Sum Trick in the Grade 2 San Rafael Stakes on Sunday. The Becerra-trained Crackup came out of a super workout on Friday in good shape and will run in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate on March 8.

Becerra is due for some luck. He lost two horses to injury last week. Way Too Salty sustained a fractured cannon bone and has been retired. He will become a riding horse for jockey Tyler Baze. Judge Swiss, a good 3-year-old sprinter, was injured in a workout last week and euthanized.

San Rafael loses one, may gain one

Excessivepleasure, who won a Cal-bred stakes race earlier this meet and most recently was second in a Sunshine Millions race at Gulfstream Park, will bypass Saturday's $200,000 San Rafael Stakes for 3-year-olds and instead head to Sunland Park for Sunday's $100,000 Borderland Derby, trainer Doug O'Neill said Tuesday.

"It should be an easier spot," said O'Neill, who said jockey Ricardo Jaime would ride Excessivepleasure.

His place in the San Rafael might be taken by Peace Rules, whom trainer Bobby Frankel wants to return to the main track after a series of strong races on turf. Frankel has been considering several races for Peace Rules's next start, but Tuesday Frankel said he would enter the San Rafael, then decide whether to run there or await the $750,000 Louisiana Derby on March 9.

"I've reserved a spot on the plane to New Orleans in case I need it," Frankel said.

Frankel said he did not know who would ride Peace Rules if he runs on Saturday, but pointed out that both Jerry Bailey and Edgar Prado would be in town for that day's Santa Anita Handicap.

The San Rafael field is expected to include Indian Express, Just Wonder, Omega Code, Spensive, Sum Trick, and possibly Our Bobby V., who will run in either the San Rafael or the following week's El Camino Real Derby.

Plenty of action for Frankel

In addition to Milwaukee Brew in the Santa Anita Handicap and possibly Peace Rules in the San Rafael, Frankel will have major players in two other important stakes this weekend at Santa Anita.

Saturday, Frankel will send out Decarchy in search of his second straight victory in the $400,000 Kilroe Mile, which Decarchy won last year as an 8-1 shot.

Decarchy is winless in four starts since then. In an attempt to snap that losing streak, Frankel said he will equip Decarchy with blinkers for the first time.

"He's really been training well, as far as I can see, training as well as ever, but he's not firing in his races," Frankel said. "When I put blinkers on him for a work the other day, he really grabbed the bit."

Pat Valenzuela will ride Decarchy for the first time Saturday.

Sunday, Frankel will seek a thus-far elusive Grade 1 victory for the late-running sprinter Aldebaran in the $200,000 San Carlos Handicap. Aldebaran is a son of Mr. Prospector and a half-brother to such top horses as Good Journey, so a Grade 1 victory would greatly increase his stud value.

"He's training great," Frankel said. "Better than ever. I've got to throw out his race in the Breeders' Cup Mile, because another horse broke down in front of him. He's been very unlucky. We want to get a Group 1 win for him."

Frankel said he had yet to decide on a rider for Aldebaran.

* The annual charity basketball game between Santa Anita jockeys and eighth-graders from Holy Angels School will be held 7:15 p.m. Thursday at LaSalle High School in Pasadena. Track announcer Trevor Denman will announce the game; Santa Anita television host Kurt Hoover will coach the jockeys.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman