Updated on 09/15/2011 12:39PM

Will Caller One face Kona?

Benoit & Associates
Kona Gold (far left), winning the Potrero Grande last time out, will likely face no more than three opponents in the Bing Crosby. The big question is whether Caller One will be a late scratch.

DEL MAR, Calif. - The road to the Breeders' Cup Sprint goes through Kona Gold, who puts his six-race win streak on the line Sunday at Del Mar in the Grade 2 Bing Crosby Handicap.

The six-furlong race has been Kona Gold's goal since April, as trainer Bruce Headley gears him up for a fall campaign he hopes will culminate in a second consecutive Breeders' Cup victory. The Crosby drew a field of six; only four are expected to start. Among those who entered is Caller One.

When a proposed $500,000 match race between Kona Gold and Caller One failed to materialize, the assumption was Caller One would wait until the Breeders' Cup for a shot at Kona Gold. Friday, trainer Jim Chapman said: "I guess [Del Mar] gets their cake and gets to eat it, too. Being one of the owners and the trainer, I'm entitled to change my mind. We're running."

We'll see. Before the Los Angeles Handicap in late May at Hollywood Park, Chapman stated that Caller One would not start. He did start, and won. The week of the Triple Bend Handicap, Chapman stated Caller One would run under 126 pounds. He scratched.

"I don't think the weights are fair [for the Bing Crosby], but there's not another spot [to run], at least not in the near future," Chapman said Friday. "Interpret that how you want."

The indecision is relevant to the Crosby, in which Caller One was assigned 124 pounds, two less than Kona Gold. Two of the other four entrants are confirmed starters - Swept Overboard and Hollycombe. Ceeband is expected to scratch. Freespool will run only if Caller One does not.

Regardless, Kona Gold remains the one to beat while starting for the first time since a narrow victory April 1 at Santa Anita in the the Grade 3 Potrero Grande. At odds of 1-5, bettors expected Kona Gold to win by more than neck. "That's just theory, it's not reality," said Headley. "It took all his power to win. Spotting horses that much weight [10 pounds] takes a toll. He was dead. It was an extreme effort, and it burned his blood up."

It also was his sixth straight win, and increased his record to 11 wins and more than $1.8 million from 19 starts. Owned by Headley, Andrew, and Irwin Molasky, and Michael Singh, Kona Gold will surpass the $2 million mark by winning the Crosby. Recent workouts indicate he is sitting on a smasher first start back.

"That's what the time off [nearly four months] is given for," Headley said. He explained the fast [56.60 seconds] workout he had early his month. "You need fast works when you're competing at the high level and you've been off a while. Class . . . you've got to tune it up."

Drawn outside under Alex Solis, Kona Gold is 4 for 4 at Del Mar. While no horse is invincible, the scratch of Caller One would cement Kona Gold's status as the odds-on Crosby favorite, a race he won last year.

The pace will be set by either Caller One, who drew the rail, or Freespool, drawn in post 5. Trainer Ted H. West entered Freespool with the intention of starting only if he could get an easy lead. "We don't want to run against Caller One, but if he doesn't run, we might be a lone-f [lone front-runner] in there," he said. Freespool has won 8 of 20, but West is realistic.

"I can't expect to beat Kona Gold, but we would have a pace advantage against him. That's probably not enough, but second money is $40,000 and there's nowhere else to run him."

While Freespool's speed merits respect, the main longshot threat to Kona Gold would probably come from behind in Swept Overboard. "I'm pleased with the way my horse is training, I'm satisfied with the weights (115), and we could be sitting in the garden spot," said trainer Craig Dollase.

Regular rider Corey Nakatani was named on Caller One, so Dollase went to Chris McCarron. The two are due for some luck. McCarron was aboard Futural when he was disqualified in the Hollywood Gold Cup. "He owes me one," Dollase said jokingly.