Trainer Bobby Frankel won his record eighth Gamely with the 5-year-old mare, which began her career racing for her breeders, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, and was a finalist for the nation's 2007 Eclipse Award as outstanding turf female. Roy and Gretchen Jackson purchased Precious Kitten for an undisclosed sum prior to the 2008 season.
Precious Kitten earned her second grade I victory at Hollywood Park following her 1 1/4-length score in last fall's Matriarch for Frankel.
Regular jockey Rafael Bejarano guided the millionaire Precious Kitten to her eighth victory in 21 lifetime starts, completing the 1 1/8-mile test for fillies and mares on firm going in 1:45.23, which was one second off the track record. Just five contested the 2008 Gamely.
English import Diamond Diva, looking for her third consecutive win in this country for Three Chimneys Racing, sped off to an early lead after breaking well from her inside post for Mike Smith, completing the opening quarter mile in :22.21. Diamond Diva continued to set a hot pace and led the stalking Precious Kitten by more than four lengths heading down the backstretch after a half-mile in :45.84 and six furlongs of 1:08.94. But the favorite, who settled in off the rail, cut into the advantage entering the final turn. Precious Kitten edged up on the outside of Diamond Diva leaving the turn to get command in upper stretch.
"I only had two choices, go for the lead or put her second." Bejarano said. "I let her break and tried to get her to the lead, but when I saw (Diamond Diva) rush up I let her go and sat second. I was a little surprised that the other horse wanted the lead, but my filly was very relaxed with the trip. It was a perfect trip and very easy for me today."
Diamond Diva stayed on for second by 1 1/2 lengths over Rutherienne, who could not make an impact on the winner this time for jockey Corey Nakatani.
"I knew there wasn't much speed so I tried to steal off," Smith said. "That was the game plan. But (Diamond Diva) ran dynamite. She was a little aggressive early and I had a little trouble getting her to relax, but she still ran great."
Rutherienne, a winner of nine of 11 previous starts in her career, captured the 1 1/16-mile Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT) at Keeneland April 12. Favored Precious Kitten ran fifth in the Wiley, her first start of the year after a 4 1/2-month absence.
Precious Kitten ran extremely wide and came up empty in the Wiley. She was ready this time, however, and won without a danger while ridden out by Bejarano.
"She ran good in Kentucky; she was a little wide but she needed the race," said Frankel assistant Humberto Ascanio. "I don’t know if he (Frankel) will ship her to New York or keep her here; he’s going to let me know later on.”
Precious Kitten is by Catienus, out of Kitten’s First, by Lear Fan. Catienus, the leading New York sire for 2006 and 2007, is standing at Ramsey Farm in Kentucky in 2008. Kitten’s First is also the dam of 2004 champion male turf horse Kitten's Joy.
The victory was worth $176,400 and boosted the Precious Kitten's lifetime earnings to $1,602,088.
Sent off at odds of 6-5, Precious Kitten carried co-top weight of 123 pounds and paid $4.40, $2.60 and $2.10. Diamond Diva, winner of the opening day Wilshire Handicap (gr. IIIT) for trainer James Cassidy, returned $3 and $2.20. The $2 exacta was worth $9.60. Rutherienne, conditioned by Christophe Clement, was $2.10 to show. Lavender Sky nosed Solva for fourth.
"I was pretty much where I wanted to be early," Nakatani said of Rutherienne. "I was trying to track Precious Kitten, but turning for home they kicked away from me and I couldn't get to them.”