07/26/2001 11:00PM

Las Vegan basks in Kona Gold's latest win


Las Vegans love betting on horses. And many love owning horses, with some of the town's notable owners including Terry Lanni, Bernie Schiappa, and Alan Pincus.

Right now, the spotlight is on local real estate developer Irwin Molasky and his son Andrew. They are co-owners of Eclipse Award sprint champion Kona Gold. Last Sunday at Del Mar, the Bing Crosby Handicap showcased arguably the two best sprinters in North America, Kona Gold and Caller One.

"Del Mar tried to get a match race between us for $500,000," said Molasky, "but they couldn't raise the money. Instead the public gets it for free when Caller One went into the race."

Actually there were two others in the Bing Crosby, Swept Overboard and Hollycombe. But if you saw the race it was as close to match race conditions as you'll probably see.

"Caller One's been a monster this year and jumped out to a five-length lead," recalled Molasky, a 50-year Las Vegas resident. "By the top of the stretch, it was a three-horse race down the long stretch. Caller One didn't quit, but Kona Gold doesn't like to have any horses in front of him."

Kona Gold won the six-furlong Bing Crosby by three-quarters of a length over Caller One in 1:08.22.

"The crowd went nuts," said Molasky. "Alex Solis stood up in the stirrups and the crowd went wild, yelling 'Kona, Kona, Kona.' As a 7-year-old horse, he hasn't lost a thing. He's feeling like a million bucks."

Molasky and trainer and co-owner Bruce Headley have mapped a road for Kona Gold to the 2001 Breeders' Cup that is identical to last year's. The next step is the Ancient Title at Santa Anita in early October, as long as the weights are acceptable. An alternative would be the Forest Hills at Belmont Park the same weekend.

"When you're the fastest gun in the West, when you're the champ, everybody wants to take a shot at you," Molasky said.

Molasky is managing partner of The Molasky Co. His highest-profile project is Park Towers luxury condominiums here. The $100 million project is more than 90 percent sold out.

"I'm working on shopping centers in Green Valley with Costco, Best Buy, and a tenant called Bath, Bed and Beyond, a big East Coast company," said Molasky. "And we're doing another major center in northwest Las Vegas, on Grand Canyon and Flamingo."

Molasky projects exude quality and are built to last, just like his racing stable.

"We're very careful of our horses," said Molasky. "Most owners run their horses at 2 and certainly at 3. We seldom run at 2; we wait until they're a mature 3 or 4 before we run. Bruce Headley has a saying: 'It's not how fast, it's how they last.'"

Kona Gold is certainly an example of that.

Richard Eng is turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap-Up Show.