Odds-on choice Admiral Kitten surged through the stretch to catch Fredericksburg just in time for a neck victory in the $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) on the night of Jan. 25 at Sam Houston Race Park.
The victory for Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred son of Kitten's Joy came one race after another heavy favorite, Sum of the Parts, set a record for five furlongs on the same turf course in the $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes.
Admiral Kitten won the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) last summer, part of a banner campaign for the Ramseys, who were recently honored with Eclipse Awards as North America's top owners and breeders. Mike Maker is the winning conditioner, taking the Connally for the second time in three years following Papaw Bodie in 2012.
Ridden patiently by Julien Leparoux, 4-year-old Admiral Kitten was timed in 1:49.80 for the 1 1/8-mile distance over firm going. The bay colt settled near the rear of the seven-horse field while saving ground before rallying on the final turn and charging four paths wide through the lane. He caught pacesetting Fredericksburg just in in the shadow of the wire for a narrow win at odds of 9-10.
Fredericksburg was ridden by Luis Saez, who won the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) earlier in the day aboard Cairo Prince at Gulfstream Park. Fredericksburg showed the way over King David through slow quarter mile fractions of :25.70, :50.70, and 1:14.97, and led by 1 1/2 lengths mid-stretch while fighting gamely to deny the winner. Stalker Vertiformer landed the show spot under Joe Bravo, half a length behind the runner-up.
This was the first start of the year for Admiral Kitten, out of the Grand Slam mare Reachinforthestars. He was second in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) in his most recent start Dec. 1 at Betfair Hollywood Park, one of five runner-up finishes in graded stakes he recorded last year.
"He always runs well from behind," said Leparoux of Admiral Kitten. "When I asked him to make his run, he did it nicely."
Worse than second just once in his 11-race career, Admiral Kitten returned $3.80 while posting his fourth career win and increasing his bankroll to $726,680.
In the Champion Energy Services, 3-5 pick Sum of the Parts fought off Bounding Bi after a hot pace duel and went on to cover the five-eighths of a mile in :56.21 for trainer Tom Amoss and jockey Rosie Napravnik. The time eclipsed the former mark of :56.48 established by Icon Ike one year ago in winning the same race with Napravnik also aboard.
Owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, the 5-year-old son of Speightstown posted his third win in the past four starts. Bred in Kentucky by Farfellow Farms out of the Slew's Royalty mare Enjoy the Moment, the dark bay is an eight-time winner from 18 starts with earnings of $806,543.
Sum of the Parts is a two-time winner of the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland and has twice run in the Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), finishing 12th last fall and fourth in 2012.
Bounding Bi set a blistering early pace (:21.56, :44.11) with Sum of the Parts just a head behind on the outside at both calls. In a full drive to the wire, Sum of the Parts got the final furlong in 12.10 seconds to win by three-quarters of a length over the steadily closing Artest, ridden by Leparoux. Perfect Parker was third, with Bounding Bi fading to fourth.
"He's made a living on the front end," said Amoss of the winner. "It's no secret that we are going to send him and hope he holds on. This is a very good field."
Sum Of The Parts paid $3.20 in the shortened field of seven horses with scratches of Great Mills and Hogy.