Few owners in recent times could have been more committed to the stud career of a stallion than Ken and Sarah Ramsey have been to Kitten's Joy . By their own estimation, at some time or another, they bred nearly 90% of a broodmare band that at one stage numbered nearly 200 to him, and initially they raced almost all of his offspring
Whether that faith and investment would be rewarded may have been open to doubt after Kitten's Joy finished fifth—to Offlee Wild, Roman Ruler, Pollard's Vision , and Wildcat Heir—on the 2009 freshmen sires list, and then dropped to seventh on the second-crop list the following year. Things looked very different by the end of 2011, however, as Kitten's Joy topped the third-crop rankings and was represented by 15 individual stakes winners.
Last year Kitten's Joy ranked as a top 20 U.S. sire by earnings, and at the weekend his momentum reached a new peak when he shot to the top of the general sire's table after a trio of his offspring captured Saturday grade I events: Big Blue Kitten in the Sword Dancer Invitation Stakes, Admiral Kitten in the Secretariat Stakes, and Real Solution in the Arlington Million. Incidentally, we should note that while the feat of having three grade I winners on a single day is rare, it's not unique and was last achieved in the U.S. on September 30, 2007, when Smart Strike was represented by Fabulous Strike in the Vosburgh Stakes; by English Channel , who took the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational; and by Curlin , successful in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Although there is no doubt that the Ramseys deserve considerable credit for the success of Kitten's Joy, the idea that anyone can "make" a stallion is really something of a myth. After all, there are any number of extremely talented runners that attract large books of well-bred and well-performed mares but fail completely. At the moment, we really can't say with any degree of certainty whether a high-class runner is likely to pass on his ability, so all we can do is ensure that they have the opportunity to do so. Kitten's Joy's success is also a blow against the notion that a staying turf horse can't succeed in the current climate (as is the early success of English Channel, another who has had significant support from his owners).
Despite the grass and distance aspects of his record, as far as two elements traditionally believed to be an asset for a stallion—talent and pedigree—Kitten's Joy had both in abundance. A winner of a Belmont Park maiden and a Churchill Downs allowance at 2, Kitten's Joy developed into the nation's dominant turf performer at 3. He suffered defeat in only two of his eight starts that year, missing by a head to Prince Arch in the Jefferson Cup (gr. IIIT), and then, at the end of a season that had started out on January 1, taking second to Better Talk Now in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT). All six of his wins at 3 came in graded contests, that sextet being the Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT), Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT), Crown Royal American Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT), Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT), Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT), and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (gr. IT). After his busy sophomore season, Kitten's Joy didn't reappear until the following summer, when he kicked off with a win in the Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT). His only other outing saw him end his career with a second in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) to Powerscourt, a horse he had beaten in the previous year's Breeders' Cup Turf.
As far as pedigree goes, Kitten's Joy is by Sadler's Wells' champion Irish 2-year-old El Prado, the leading sire of 2002. El Prado has another outstanding stallion son in Medaglia d'Oro , and a third, Kitten's Joy's contemporary Artie Schiller, is a group I sire. Kitten's Joy's dam, Kitten's First, is also dam of Precious Kitten, a multiple grade I winner by another Ramsey stallion, Catienus. Kitten's First's daughter Justenuffheart won a pair of stakes but is more notable as the dam of champion 2-year-old filly Dreaming of Anna and graded scorers Lewis Michael and Justenuffhumor.
Kitten's First is a half sister to Down the Aisle, winner of the United Nations Handicap (gr. IT), and their dam, That's My Hon, is a half sister to Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) captress Road Princess. Going back another generation we come to Spectacular Bid—champion of his crop at 2 and 3, and Horse of the Year at 4—whose granddam was a half sister to the granddam of Kitten's First.
Although the Ramseys were tireless in efforts to support Kitten's Joy, they certainly weren't able to furnish him with mares at the level of those that would have been bred to Spectacular Bid in his first few years at stud. This point is borne out by the dams of the weekend's grade I-winning trio.
Reachfortheheavens, the dam of Real Solution, went unsold for $4,500 as a 2-year-old and later that year was haltered for $25,000 from her last start, a maiden claimer at Woodbine, a race which provided her only win in four starts. She is a daughter of Pulpit but has no black-type in her dam. Her second dam, Northern Dancer's daughter Northabout, produced just one black-type-placed horse from seven starters, although she is granddam of graded winner Lattice and third dam of Sign, a Pulpit filly who won last year's Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II). Her third dam (Real Solution's fourth), Alluvial, did produce Belmont Stakes (gr. I) victor Coastal and seven-time grade I winner Slew o' Gold, and is granddam of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) runner-up Aptitude and Hollywood Oaks (gr. I) victress Sleep Easy. It's probably worth noting that Slew o' Gold and Sleep Easy are by Pulpit's grandsire, Seattle Slew, and Aptitude is by Pulpit's sire, A.P. Indy.
Big Blue Kitten is out of Spent Gold, a daughter of Unaccounted For who started just three times, her best effort being a third in a maiden claimer at Belmont Park on her first start as a 2-year-old. She was claimed for $50,000 by the Ramseys two outings later when finishing fourth in a maiden claimer at Saratoga. This was back in 1999, so she wasn't acquired with Kitten's Joy specifically in mind. Spent Gold is a half sister to the minor stakes winner Clever Tish. Her granddam, Mystical Mood, won the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) and finished second in the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) and third in the Matron Stakes (gr. I). Mystical Mood subsequently produced Fair Judgment, a group/graded stakes winner in Europe and the U.S., and she is ancestress of several other stakes winners, most notably champion 2-year-old colt Stevie Wonderboy.
Admiral Kitten's dam, the Grand Slam mare Reachinforthestars, was taken by the Ramseys when ninth of 10 in her debut, a $25,000 maiden claimer for 2-year-olds at Calder. She subsequently broke her maiden for $50,000 and won a claimer at Gulfstream Park while entered for a $62,500 tag. She is another without black-type in her dam, but that dam, Mombasa, was by Dynaformer out of John Nerud's good matron Mesabi, also the dam of graded-winning and grade I-placed Funistrada and stakes winner Wakonda. Mesabi is also granddam of last year's Natalma Stakes (Can-IIT) and Mazarine Stakes (Can-III) victress Spring Venture, among others.
While the dams of the grade I trio are from three different broodmare sire lines, there are some common threads in their pedigrees. Big Blue Kitten's third dam is by Roberto (also sire of Kitten's Joy's broodmare sire, Lear Fan), while the second dams of both Real Solution and Admiral Kitten are by Dynaformer (by Roberto).
Real Solution (TrueNicks-rated A++) is one of three stakes winners bred on the El Prado/Pulpit cross, and it's no surprise to see El Prado work with A.P. Indy given that El Prado's dam is a classic winner bred on a Sir Gaylord/Tom Fool cross, whereas A.P. Indy's second dam is a Tom Fool/Sir Gaylord cross. Real Solution's third dam is by Northern Dancer out of a Buckpasser mare, the reverse cross to that which produced L'Enjoleur, the sire of the second dam of Kitten's Joy.