The son of Kitten's Joy was sent off at 9-1 in his graded stakes debut and making his first start on a synthetic surface, but was up to the challenge. He covered 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack in 1:42.03 under Julien Leparoux to put himself in contention for the May 21 Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Mike Maker trains Derby Kitten for the Ramseys, who won the Giant’s Causeway Stakes in the previous race with their homebred Holiday for Kitten and ran second with another homebred, Dean's Kitten, in the Ben Ali (gr. III) before that. The Ramsey’s are perennial leading owners in Kentucky.
Derby Kitten entered the Lexington having made all but one of his eight career starts on turf. He was winless in four starts as a juvenile, but broke his maiden Jan. 5 at Gulfstream Park and then was second in a pair of turf races, including the Alligator Alley Stakes on April 2.
In the Lexington, which was run under a heavy thunderstorm, Derby Kitten was last of six through three-quarters while Casper’s Touch and Alan Garcia set the pace. Casper’s Touch, who won an allowance race two weeks ago at Keeneland, was in front through splits of :23.96, :47.17, and 1:12.11, while Prime Cut pressed the pace from the outside. Silver Medallion, the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) winner and 6-5 favorite, was never far back.
Casper’s Touch came off the turn still running well and carried a narrow lead into the stretch. Prime Cut was right on his heels still and Silver Medallion was trying to fight his way along the rail, but Derby Kitten, who had advanced on the second turn and was angled out for his stretch drive, was coming hard from the outside. He reeled in Prime Cut and Casper’s Touch in the final strides to post the upset.
Prime Cut settled for runner-up, a half-length in front of Casper's Touch. Silver Medallion was fourth, which likely ended his Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) hopes. Hurricane Lake was fifth, while Taptowne trailed.
“We circled the field but we saved ground on the second turn,” Leparoux said. “We had a good trip. I had a lot of horse and I knew I was going to get there.”
After the race, Ken Ramsey said he would talk to Maker about Derby Kitten’s next race, but said the Preakness is under consideration.
Derby Kitten improved to 2-3-1 from nine starts and has now earned $172,333. He is out of the Menifee mare Blush.
Derby Kitten paid $20.40, $6.60, and $3.60. The exacta (1-3) returned $74.40 and the trifecta (1-3-6) was worth $230.