When Derby Kitten pulled an upset in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland April 23, owner-breeder Ken Ramsey did not have Derby on his mind despite the ambitious name he had given the colt.
“When Derby Kitten crossed the finish line, there was no Derby thrill at all. I had no idea we were close to getting in,” said the owner of Ramsey Farm near Nicholasville, Ky. “I came home and checked. We were 31st on the list (of graded earnings) after the Coolmore Lexington.”
As the month played out, though, casualties and common sense began altering the Kentucky Derby picture. Then, on May 3, the magic 20 spot opened for Derby Kitten with the withdrawal of an injured Toby's Corner.
And with that the ever-ebullient Ramsey shifted into high gear. With phones to both ears, he took calls from family, friends, and well-wishers, retained the services of jockey Javier Castellano, and made plans to go to the Derby Trainers Dinner that evening.
He confirmed that his wife, Sarah Kathern, who suffered a stroke in 2007 and doesn’t get out much now, would go to the Derby with him. “She’s going to be shopping for a new hat,” he said.
Trained by Mike Maker, Derby Kitten has a record of 2-3-1 from nine starts—seven on turf—and earnings of $172,333.
Since the Coolmore Lexington, Derby Kitten’s routine has consisted mainly of galloping. Maker described the bay colt as “kind of strange. Some days he’s aggressive; other days he didn’t even qualify for a work. But he’s getting better.”
Ramsey says Derby Kitten relishes an off track, and his come-from-behind style should suit him well in the Derby.
Derby Kitten represents the third Derby horse for the Ramseys. Last year their Dean's Kitten ran 14th and in 2003 Ten Cents a Shine finished eighth.
This Derby is particularly meaningful for Ramsey as it marks the ascendency of his homebred stallion Kitten's Joy , sire of both Derby Kitten and Dean’s Kitten. At the recent Keeneland meet, nine of the 10 Ramsey winners were offspring of Kitten’s Joy, the 2004 male turf champion.
To say that Ramsey has supported the stallion is an understatement.
“I did a little addition,” he said. “We’ve got 67 Kitten’s Joys in training, 71 yearlings, 73 (foals) on the ground, and seven more to deliver. That’s 218.”
The Ramseys don’t own all the Kitten’s Joys—he has sired 408 offspring to date—but pretty darn close.
“Kitten’s Joy is our man,” Ramsey said.
Holiday for Kitten, winner of Keeneland’s Giant’s Causeway Stakes, will run at Royal Ascot in June and possibly in the July Cup (Eng-I) at Newmarket. Ramsey also noted that three Kitten’s Joys are headed to Italy to race while another two are bound for Ireland. Australia is home to 13 coming 2-year-olds, he said.
“We’ve got them scattered all around the world,” Ramsey said.
For now, though, one closest to home commands center stage for the Ramseys.
If Derby Kitten draws a favorable post, Ramsey said, “lightning could strike.”