Bruce Headley, California thoroughbred trainer, dies at 86

Getty Images

ARCADIA, Calif. — Bruce Headley, the thoroughbred trainer who developed sprint champion Kona Gold and many other stakes winners during a 61-year career based in California, died at 86.

Santa Anita officials said Headley died at an Arcadia hospital from the effects of a stroke. He had been slowed in recent years by cardiac issues.

Headley was first introduced to racing at Santa Anita by an aunt at age six. At 14, he was mucking stalls and cooling out horses at a local ranch alongside 16-year-old Bill Shoemaker, who went on to become a Hall of Fame jockey.

Headley took out his trainer’s license at 25. He saddled his first winner with his very first horse, a $500 purchase who won at the Los Angeles County Fair on Sept. 29, 1959.

He had 902 victories from 6,121 career starters, who totaled earnings of $38,682,030. Headley had 123 career stakes victories. He bred and owned most of the horses he trained.

The highlight of Headley’s career came when Kona Gold won the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The horse had 14 wins in 30 career starts and earnings of $2,293,384. Kona Gold ran in a record five BC Sprints and won a Grade 3 stakes race at age nine. He won the 2001 Eclipse Award as the nation’s top sprinter.

Headley also had two seconds and five thirds in Breeders’ Cup races.

Retired Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, who enjoyed success with Headley for over 20 years, tweeted, “He’s a throwback to the old days, a pure horseman through and through. An excellent caretaker, a great family man, and a heck of a human being.”

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Aase, daughter Karen and son Gus. His children are trainers, too.

Stradivarius, 3-time Ascot Gold Cup winner, retired to stud

Getty Images
1 Comment

LONDON – Stradivarius, one of the most famous racehorses in Britain and Ireland after winning the Gold Cup at Ascot three times, has been retired to stud.

Bjorn Nielsen, the owner of Stradivarius, said he felt it would be unfair to make the horse come back next season as a 9-year-old after time away with a bruised foot.

“It has been a fairytale from start to finish,” Nielsen told British newspaper The Racing Post.

Stradivarius, bred in Ireland and the son of Sea The Stars, won 20 of his 35 races – including seven Group One races – and earned almost 3.5 million pounds (now $3.8 million) in prize money.

Stradivarius won four Goodwood Cups, three Yorkshire Cups and two Doncaster Cups.

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

Getty Images
1 Comment

BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.