September 25, 2009 — Kona Gold, winner of the 2000 Eclipse Award for Sprinter of the Year, was humanely euthanized at the Kentucky Horse Park this morning after suffering a severe fracture to his left front leg while exercising in his paddock. He was 15 years old.
Within minutes of the accident, he was taken to Hagyard Equine Medical Institute for evaluation where it was determined by the surgical staff that his injury was beyond repair. The unanimous decision to euthanize was made by the surgeons, his former trainer Bruce Headley, and the staff at the Kentucky Horse Park who have loved and cared for him during his retirement.
John Nicholson, Executive Director of the park stated, “Kona Gold came to the park because he deserved his place among our other champions, and also because he endeared himself to the racing public during his illustrious career on the track. It was a case of ‘love at first sight’ for our staff when Kona Gold stepped off the van two years ago as a new resident of the Hall of Champions. Not only was he a handsome animal with kind eyes, he was also gentle and good. He was definitely one of my personal favorites because he had such a good heart.”
Kona Gold was a popular Thoroughbred who won the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (6 furlongs) in Churchill Downs and Breeders’ Cup record time of 1:07.77 under Alex Solis, and nailed the Eclipse Award as Champion Sprinter that year. He also placed second and third in previous Breeders’ Cup Sprints. His 11 stakes wins for trainer Bruce Headley included the San Carlos H. (G1), Potrero Grande Breeders’ Cup H. (G2) twice, Palos Verdes H. (G2), Ancient Title Breeders’ Cup H. (G2), Bing Crosby Breeders’ Cup H. (G2) twice, El Conejo H. (G3), Los Angeles H. (G3), and El Conejo H. (L) setting a new track record.
He retired at the age of 9 with $2,293,284 in earnings and a record of 31-14-7-2.
In the two years that Kona Gold lived at the park, he became a favorite of visitors because he was always willing to be petted and photographed. He will be greatly missed by all of those who had the opportunity to care for and know him.
Kona Gold was bred by Carlos Perez’ Twilite Farm, and sold at the 1995 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $35,000. He was owned by his trainer, Bruce Headley (who also broke him), and Andrew and Irwin Molasky. When it was decided to send him to the Kentucky Horse Park, Irwin Molasky said, “We had a meeting about it because this is a difficult decision for us-because we love this animal so much-but we decided that he belongs to the public. It’s been such a pleasure to own an athlete like this and be involved in racing. He was such an honest horse and won so many graded races.”
The handsome bay son of Java Man – Double Sunrise by Slew o’ Gold was buried on the Memorial Walk of Champions alongside other legendary former residents of the Hall of Champions Bold Forbes and Forego, and near the graves of John Henry and Alysheba.
Nicholson concluded, “While this is a sad day, we will always appreciate that Kona’s owners made the decision to send him to the Kentucky Horse Park, and our sympathy goes out to them and to all the people who have cherished him through the years.”