07/03/2002 11:00PM

Weight is Kona Gold's foe


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Kona Gold is chasing history this season, and as trainer Bruce Headley admits, "history is going against him."

No horse has carried more than 124 pounds and won the Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park. Kona Gold will carry 126 pounds Saturday in the Grade 2, seven-furlong stakes, which is being run for the 51st time. Beyond the Triple Bend, Kona Gold is aiming for another record - the first horse to run in five Breeders' Cups.

He is 8 years old now, and unlikely as it seems, both goals are within reach. In fact, there may be no stopping Kona Gold this year, or beyond.

"I don't see any reason, beyond the unforeseen, why he can't be just as good at 10," Headley said.

Headley has reason to be confident Saturday. Kona Gold faces nine rivals in the $300,000 Triple Bend; none is in his league. Owned by Headley and Andrew and Irwin Molasky, Kona Gold has won 13 of 24, earned more than $2.1 million, and has trained super since a sharp comeback win in the Los Angeles Handicap one month ago.

Kona Gold looks and acts like a horse ready to race again.

"His ears are forward, he's happy after he trains, all his veins are showing, and his skin is tight," Headley said. "He is primed."

He also has a reputation, and because the Triple Bend is a handicap, Kona Gold pays a price. He gives away six pounds (126-120) to streaking Mellow Fellow, who has won six straight; nine pounds to front-runner Full Moon Madness; and 12 pounds to enigmatic D'wildcat. Throw in graded stakes winners Grey Memo and Elaborate, I Love Silver, Disturbingthepeace, Top Hit, and Blue Air Force, and Kona Gold will have to run to win.

The 113 Beyer that Kona Gold earned in the Los Angeles is 10 points below his career high, yet still higher than the career-best of every Triple Bend starter except likely pacesetter Full Moon Madness. Kona Gold may have room to improve in this start.

"He came out of [the Los Angeles] so good; this would clinch him being a legend," said Headley.

Kona Gold's regular rider is Alex Solis, whom Headley credits with helping mold the gelding into a star. Headley also credits Kona Gold's groom, Juan Soto.

Although Kona Gold's credentials make him the horse to beat anyway, his chances were enhanced when second choice Mellow Fellow landed undesirable post 3. The 7-year-old gelding has changed barns since winning a Grade 3 Bay Meadows Sprint

May 11, beating subsequent Met Mile winner Swept Overboard and True North winner Explicit.

Mellow Fellow was purchased privately by Sid and Jenny Craig, and transferred from trainer Bill Morey to Bill Spawr. Mellow Fellow's new trainer was candid regarding his chances.

"I don't like his chances because of the draw," Spawr said. "This track is very biased - the outside has a five-length advantage."

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