05/29/2002 12:00AM

Weight may keep Kona Gold in barn


ARCADIA, Calif. - Citing displeasure with the 125-pound weight assignment for Kona Gold's first start of the year, trainer Bruce Headley said he is only "50-50" to return Sunday in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park. Kona Gold, 12 for 23 overall, won four straight races carrying at least 125 pounds from late 2000 through summer 2001, but his form tailed off last fall when he finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and followed with a dull fourth in the De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel.

Headley believes that Kona Gold should have been assigned 122 or 123 pounds for the six-furlong Los Angeles.

"They start him out with that much weight, what happens if he wins?" Headley said. "It's not the weight this time, it's next time and the time after that. He got beat his last three starts, and he's 8 years old. I'd be wearing him out."

Kona Gold breezed a half-mile in 46.80 seconds on Tuesday at Santa Anita, the latest in a series of fast workouts.

"He's doing great; he's ready to go," Headley said.

A small field is taking shape for the $100,000 Los Angeles. Second highweight Full Moon Madness was assigned 119, but is also being considered for a weekend race in northern California. Probables include No Armistice (115), Radiata (114), Hombre Rapido (112), and Rapidough (112).

Came Home training right along

Came Home worked five furlongs in 59.20 seconds Wednesday at Santa Anita, his third work since finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby. Chris McCarron was aboard.

"He's doing very good. He hasn't missed a day of training since he got back [to California]," trainer Paco Gonzalez said. "He's been working once a week."

Winner of the Santa Anita Derby in April, Came Home is expected to return June 23 in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park. Came Home was sired by Gone West, and produced by the mare Nice Assay. The mare's 2-year-old A.P. Indy colt also worked Wednesday at Santa Anita. Endeavouring, part of the Godolphin string trained by Eoin Harty, worked a quarter-mile as he prepares for his debut later this summer. Endeavouring is a full brother to Grade 2-winning mare A. P. Assay.

Dutton's stakes juveniles

A half-mile work by Global Finance on Tuesday puts her on target as the solid favorite for the $75,000 Cinderella Stakes for 2-year-old fillies Sunday at Hollywood Park. Global Finance, by End Sweep, will be making her fourth start in the 5 1/2-furlong stakes, following a maiden victory win and a four-length win May 11 in the Nursery Stakes. She is trained by Jerry Dutton.

Dutton also trains the 2-year-old colt Skipping Stars, who finished second in the Willard Proctor Stakes on Sunday. Dutton said he's looking forward to running Skipping Stars, a son of Skip Away, long.

"I won't run him five [furlongs] or 5 1/2 any more," he said. "He wants to run long. He's bred that way, and that's the way he acts."

Dutton said Skipping Stars might not start again at Hollywood.

"I think he'll be better when we get to Del Mar," he said.

Stars in the making

Of course, when the Del Mar meet begins, July 24, Skipping Stars will face the cream of the 2-year-old division. There are 37 unraced Godolphin 2-year-olds training for a summer debut, and Del Mar also is where trainer Bob Baffert unveils his top 2-year-olds. According to clockers, the Clever Trick colt Macho Image and the Stormy Atlantic filly Atlantic Ocean are among the most impressive Baffert 2-year-olds.

Macho Image's fastest work was a bullet half-mile May 15 in 46.80 seconds. Expectations will be higher for Atlantic Ocean, purchased by Baffert and The Thoroughbred Corp. for $1.9 million at a Barretts 2-year-old sale. Early indications are she is a freak. Her five-furlong workout on May 22 in 59.60 seconds was the best of the day.

Malabar Gold at a mile

Malabar Gold, runner-up to Shibboleth in the quickly run Grade 3 Jaipur on the turf at Belmont Park Monday, will return to California and switch to dirt.

"There isn't much in the way of turf sprints, and he probably has more of a style for dirt, but he was running so well in turf sprints," trainer Ron Ellis said.

Ellis said he would like to run Malabar Gold in the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap at a mile on dirt Sept. 2. Ellis said winning a stakes at a mile on dirt would help boost Malabar Gold's value as a stallion prospect.

Another Ellis trainee, No Armistice, will make his initial foray into stakes company Sunday in the Los Angeles Handicap. The 5-year-old won a classified allowance by seven lengths in 1:09.20 for six furlongs April 17 at Keeneland, earning a career-best 112 Beyer. It was the first start in a year for No Armistice, who has won 4 of 9 overall.

"Besides Kona Gold, the race isn't that deep," said Ellis of the Los Angeles. "I don't think he'd be worse than second choice in there."

* Ringaskiddy, upset winner of the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano, worked seven furlongs Wednesday at Santa Anita as he prepares for the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap on June 15 at Hollywood Park.

"Most horses would be tired after that [1 3/4-mile] race, but not him," trainer Juan Garcia said. "He's really sharp, even the day after the race."