By Alan Porter
It’s clear from his name that his owners have always harbored high hopes for Derby Kitten. Unfortunately, despite his victory April 23 in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO), Derby Kitten doesn’t have sufficient graded earnings to take his shot at living up to his name in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). However, he’s not out of the classic picture entirely, as he could now point to the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
The Lexington—run on Keeneland’s Polytrack all-weather surface—was Derby Kitten’s second start on anything other than turf—he was unplaced in an October 2010 juvenile maiden race pulled off the Belmont turf because of weather—and marked a significant step forward in his form. It actually took him six starts to break his maiden, a feat that he achieved in a 7½-furlong claiming event (for a $75,000 tag). January 5 at Gulfstream Park. He was then second in a handicap over a mile at Tampa, and a fast-closing second, beaten a length, in the one mile Alligator Alley Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Derby Kitten was bred by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, who also bred and campaigned his sire, Kitten's Joy . By El Prado out of a Lear Fan mare, Kitten’s Joy was bred for the turf, and that is where he excelled. He won twice in four starts at 2, but really came good at 3, earning honors as champion turf horse. He captured six of his eight starts that year, all graded stakes events, including the Secretariat Stakes and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (both gr. IT), and was second in the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT). Kitten’s Joy remained in training at 4, but started just twice, winning the Firecracker Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) and taking second in the Arlington Million Stakes (gr. I).
Retired to Ramsey Farm, Kitten’s Joy has sired five stakes winners in his first crop—4-year-olds of 2010—all bred by the Ramseys. The quintet include the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) victory Dean's Kitten; William's Kitten, who is also multiple graded-placed; and Sweet Kitten, a multiple graded stakes winner in Puerto Rico, where she was champion 2-year-old filly. He had a second-crop double for the Ramseys April 23 at Keeneland, with another homebred, Holiday For Kitten, taking the Giant’s Causeway Stakes, while Dean’s Kitten came close to making it a trio with a second to Exhi in the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) on the same card.
Derby Kitten and his stakes-winning full brother William’s Kitten are the first two runners for their dam, the Menifee mare Blush. A three-time winner, Blush is out of Cerise, a daughter of Rahy. Cerise was placed at 2, and produced four minor winners, the best of which is Blush’s brother, the hard-knocking gelding Maroon, a winner of six races and more than $190,000 to date. Cerise is a half sister to the good sprint filly Traverse City (by Rahy’s broodmare sire, Halo), who was successful in the Interborough Handicap (gr. III), La Troienne Stakes, Correction Handicap, and Four Winds Stakes.
Derby Kitten’s third dam, Cherry Jubilee (by Coastal), was also an accomplished runner, taking the Next Move Handicap (gr. III), but she had a better half brother in the shape of Willow Hour. He made his mark in the history books as a 24-1 long shot who defeated 3-year-old champion Pleasant Colony in a furious stretch drive for the 1981 Travers Stakes (gr. I) with the previous year’s champion 2-year-old Lord Avie and subsequent champion older horse Lemhi Gold behind them.
The broad Sadler’s Wells/Storm Cat cross that produced Derby Kitten has not been especially prolific, with eight stakes winners from 149 starters, the best of which is last year’s Irish and French group I-winning juvenile Misty For Me. (Misty For Me’s dam is by Storm Cat out of a half sister to Derby Kitten’s broodmare sire Menifee, meaning Derby Kitten/William’s Kitten and Misty For Me are bred on similar lines).
Derby Kitten and William’s Kitten have several other interesting patterns in play. To begin with, their grandsire, El Prado, is by a son of Northern Dancer out of a mare by Sir Ivor (by Sir Gaylord), while Storm Cat (in the male-line of the dam) is by a son of Northern Dancer out of a mare by Secretariat (half brother to Sir Gaylord). Sadler’s Wells and El Prado are both Northern Dancer/Turn-to crosses, as is Harlan (grandsire of the dam of Derby Kitten and William’s Kitten), and with El Prado and Harlan, the Turn-to is through genetic relatives Sir Ivor and Halo. Halo is actually doubled in the dam of Derby Kitten and William’s Kitten, and he might also play off the dam of Kitten’s Joy, Kitten’s First, who is bred on an extended version of the Hail to Reason/Pharamond II cross that produced Halo. For good measure, the dam of El Prado is a Turn-to (sire of Hail to Reason)/Pharamond II cross. Finally, while Sadler’s Wells is a Northern Dancer/Bold Reason cross, Menifee, the broodmare sire of Derby Kitten and William’s Kitten, is a Northern Dancer/Never Bend cross—Never Bend being a half brother to Bold Reason.