By Jacqueline Duke
Ken Ramsey enjoys making a good claim nearly as much as he likes winning with a homebred. But the owner of Ramsey Farm rues the day in 2008 he brought a recently claimed horse to his farm near Nicholasville, Ky.
Ramsey suspects that horse infected most of the 60 yearlings on the farm with strangles, a highly contagious upper respiratory disease. Nearly all of the yearlings were offspring from the first crop of Kitten's Joy ’s, the pride of the Ramsey stable and champion male turf horse of 2004.
The disease “went through all our yearlings. It just ruined that crop,” said Ramsey, who since added a quarantine station on the farm.
But at least one yearling seemed to suffer no ill affects from the outbreak: Dean's Kitten, named for the wife of Ramsey’s brother, Keith.
Dean’s Kitten represents America’s best hope in the European-dominated Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) on Nov. 5 and is one of seven Ramsey horses contesting Breeders’ Cup races over the two days.
Dean’s Kitten is 10-1 on the morning line and faces five competitive Europeans in the nine-horse field, including early favorite Sarafina, a multiple group I-winning filly from France.
The 4-year-old Kitten’s Joy colt has stamped himself a top U.S. turf specialist, most recently finishing second by a nose to Cape Blanco in the Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT). Before that the Mike Maker-trainee was third to the same horse in the Arlington Classic (gr. IT).
“The horse is getting better each race,” Ramsey said. “He’s training well.”
An upset win by Dean’s Kitten would go along way in avenging the defeat of his sire in the same race in 2004. The heaviest favorite on the World Thoroughbred Championships card that year, Kitten’s Joy got caught in traffic during the roughly run Turf and finished second to Better Talk Now.
As much as a Turf victory would please Ramsey, the owner thinks his Stephanie's Kitten, entered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT), gives him his best shot. The fact that John Velazquez, who picked up the winning ride in the Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) at Keeneland last month, will partner her again “bolsters my confidence,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey will delight in a victory by any Kitten’s Joy runner, as he will be selling offspring at upcoming Kentucky sales. In addition, Ramsey Farm will offer the buyers of two mares consigned to the Fasig-Tipton November select mixed sale the opportunity to breed them to Kitten’s Joy in 2012 for free.
Because of the strangles outbreak in 2008, Ramsey said, “We feel like we’re one crop behind.”
Nevertheless, Kitten’s Joy is well represented with 310 horses of racing age from three crops and they are racing on five continents, according to Ramsey.
“They’re winning the world over,” he noted.
In other Turf developments, Await the Dawn and St Nicholas Abbey arrived the evening of Nov. 1, part of the final contingent of eight colts from the stable of Aidan O’Brien. The pair will head to the track for the first time on Friday morning.
On Wednesday morning, The Aga Khan’s Sarafina cantered on the main track and Juddmonte Farms’ duo of Midday and Sea Moon also had some light exercise, the latter on the turf course.
“I’m really happy with the way he went out there. He absolutely loves the ground,” said James Savage, traveling head lad for trainer Michael Stoute.
Live Oak Plantation’s Brilliant Speed jogged one mile then galloped a similar distance under Dave Wallace in his first exercise since arriving at Churchill Downs the day before.
The 2011 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner returns to the Louisville track after finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) after a very wide trip. He went on to finish third in the Belmont (gr. I) and fifth in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) before being switched back to turf racing.
“I think I’m pretty sure he prefers to be on the grass; he’s more comfortable on the grass,” trainer Tom Albertrani said. “On a certain (dirt) surface, he might handle it like the one at Churchill, but it looks like his best races have been on turf, other than the Blue Grass on synthetic.”
Also newly arrived at Churchill Downs, Teaks North walked the shedrow and grazed Wednesday morning.