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Santa Anita Park Picks | Kona Gold Stakes 2024
The Chosen Vron (Lindsay Affleck)

Santa Anita Park Picks | Kona Gold Stakes 2024

One of the nation’s leading sprinters, The Chosen Vron, is set to return in Saturday’s $100,000 Kona Gold Stakes at Santa Anita Park after connections paid a $2,000 supplemental entry fee at entry time Wednesday.

With 11 races Saturday, including two stakes, first post time is 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.

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Trained and co-owned by Eric Kruljac, The Chosen Vron was supplemented after not being originally nominated for the 6 ½-furlong dirt sprint. He will seek his 16th stakes win against six rivals including multiple graded stakes winner Forbidden Kingdom and Express Train, a Grade I winner who has not started since October 2022.

Since a solid fifth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint Nov. 4 at Santa Anita, The Chosen Vron has reeled off three consecutive stakes wins. Just 14 days after the Breeders’ Cup, he returned to win the black-type Cary Grant Stakes at Del Mar to close out the season. In two starts this year, the 6-year-old Vronsky gelding won the California Cup Sprint at Santa Anita Jan. 13 and GIII San Carlos most recently on March 16 at Santa Anita.

Kruljac co-owns The Chosen Vron with Sondereker Racing LLC, Robert S. Fetkin and Richard Thornburgh. The California-bred is 21: 16-1-2 with $1,299,678 in earnings. He will have regular rider Hector Berrios in the irons.

Forbidden Kingdom returns to dirt for his 5-year-old debut. Trained by Richard Mandella, Forbidden Kingdom was last seen Dec. 30 winning the GII Joe Hernandez going 6 ½ furlongs on the flat turf course. In two other starts last year, the full horse by American Pharoah was second in the GIII San Carlos in March and fourth in the GII Triple Bend in May, both at Santa Anita.

Forbidden Kingdom is owned by My Racehorse and Spendthrift Farm. He has a record of 12: 4-3-2 with $679,500 in earnings. Top jockey Juan Hernandez reunites with Forbidden Kingdom after not being aboard in the Joe Hernandez.

Express Train, the 2022 GI Santa Anita Handicap winner, makes his first start in almost 19 months for trainer John Shirreffs. A now 7-year-old full horse by Union Rags, Express Train has not started since a fourth-place finish in the 2022 GI Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita.

Express Train has a record of 20: 7-5-3 with $1,443,800 in earnings for owner C R K Stable. In addition to the 2022 Big Cap, his resume also includes wins in the 2021 GII San Pasqual, 2021 GII San Diego Handicap, 2021 GII San Antonio and 2022 San Pasqual. Hall of Famer Mike Smith will ride Express Train.


Race 4 of 11 | Approximate post time 2:30 p.m. PT

  1. Forbidden Kingdom—Juan Hernandez—124
  2. Prince Abu Dhabi—Kyle Frey—124
  3. See Through It—Edwin Maldonado—124
  4. The Chosen Vron—Hector Berrios—124
  5. Happy Jack—Frankie Dettori—120
  6. Zeus’ Star—Umberto Rispoli—120
  7. Express Train—Mike Smith—124