View Full Version : OMG! Kona! My heart is broken. (Personal tribute/grieving)

Oct. 8, 2009, 11:13 AM
I know there's a thread on this (http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum/showthread.php?t=225501), but my heart just shattered last night when I read this in the Thoroughbred Times. I missed this because I'm pregnant and stuck at home with the flu--I've been out of it for a bit.

I wanted to start a thread with a more personal touch. We knew Kona Gold (and Bruce, and Aase) personally, and were their guests on many, many an occasion on Kona's race days. Because of his talent, we were often in the Winner's Circle photo with him.

Kona brought me back into the racing world. Go For Wand's gruesome breakdown in the 1990 Breeder's Cup Distaff chased me away from the sport in grieving disgust. When I started teaching with Aase Headley, and learned her husband was a trainer, I was invited into the horse racing world from a perspective I'd never before experienced.

Bruce is a consummate horseman. He loves and babies his horses, and Kona Gold was a prize. Kona was not just talented, he was smart and a complete ham. Over the years, I watched Bruce treat Kona (and several other horses) as a horseman first and foremost. He was not interested in pushing his horses, or racing them everywhere and anywhere. Kona ran about 6 times a year, then would get his shoes pulled and rest (and play) in Bruce's 3-acre backyard.

I visited Kona there one "off" season, and the playful mate reached out and grabbed my sweater in his teeth. Aase, accompanying me, told me to smack him on the nose to tell him to knock it off. I gasped, "I'm not smacking a million-dollar horse on the nose!" Heh. Kona was being playful; he was not ever mean or ill-tempered in my presence. You could tell, however, that there was a bit of mischief going on behind those eyes. I swear, that horse had a sense of humor. I saw him many, many, many a time in Bruce's barn at Santa Anita in the morning, or in the saddling paddock, or in the walking ring. Always Mr. Cool, always Mr. Professional, always ready to take on the young whipper-snappers and give them a What For.

I thought it absolutely hilarious that when Kona finally retired, they sent him to be retrained as a pony--and part of what they had him do was working cattle. One, I thought that hilarious that an Eclipse champion was chasing down cows, and two, I knew those cows were in for it. Kona, I bet, loved telling those strange things What For. Hee, I laugh just picturing it.

Here in my living room, a large framed print of a Kenneth Daly painting is displayed in the center of the room. It is of Kona and Alex winning the 2000 Breeder's Cup Sprint, and has been signed by the artist and jockey,

Ooh, the Breeder's Cup. I screamed myself hoarse every year he ran. The year he won, my normally stoic husband joined me, as though our cheers from 2500 miles away would somehow reach his ears. When he won, I brought the videotape to my classroom and showed it to my 5th graders--several had been in Aase's (who had since retired) third grade class--without telling them the results. They, too, screamed and cheered.

A few weeks later, a copy of Kona's winner's circle photo at the Breeder's Cup appeared in my mailbox at school.

I've watched many of Bruce's other successes over the years: Kalookan Queen, Royally Chosen, Got Koko...but none, none have ever reached my heart the way that proud, mischievous, bulldog-framed bay with the flopping tongue did.

Gallop on, Kona. Gallop on.

Oct. 8, 2009, 12:58 PM
That was a beautiful tribute.

Thank you for sharing and giving us some insight to the true Kona.

Oct. 8, 2009, 11:54 PM
Hi All,
I'm just back from an extended stay on Long Island due to both parents being extremely ill. I thought nothing else could make me sadder but the loss of Kona Gold just blows my mind.

I loved Kona Gold - just adored him. I have a shoe he wore in a Grade II win (the Puerto Madera Stakes - pardon my spelling) and I have always treasured it. I have a TON of photos of him from the 2001 Breeders Cup. Kona Gold made me believe that dreams can come true....

What a hard-knocking, tough guy he was! KG was the very definition of a true racehorse - heart and more heart.

My sympathy to Bruce and his whole racing team, along with the kind folks at Kentucky Horse Park.

I'm not often at a loss for words, but this just hit me hard.

Barnfairy - I'll be in touch now that I'm back. It was a LONGGGGG tough summer.

Hallie McEvoy
Racing Dreams, LLC

Oct. 9, 2009, 01:12 AM
I'm so sorry you guys.. :cry: He sounds like a super special boy. I know he is terribly missed. My heart goes out to all who knew and loved him. Rest in Peace Kona

Oct. 9, 2009, 09:27 AM
Thanks for sharing your personal stories, I am so sorry for your loss. Godspeed.

Oct. 9, 2009, 10:02 AM
Thank you for sharing your personal story...I am so sorry that you and his connections lost this very special horse.

Oct. 9, 2009, 05:27 PM
Barnfairy - I'll be in touch now that I'm back. It was a LONGGGGG tough summer.
Hey Hallie. Sorry to hear things were rough, but glad you're back. Let me know when you want to go to Suffolk.