Trainer Mike Maker was looking for strong works April 17 at Trackside Louisville training center for his Kentucky Derby (gr. I) hope Dean's Kitten and Twin Creeks Farm’s Age of Humor, his runner-up in the Bourbonette (gr. III) at Turfway Park and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) hopeful.
So Maker decided to work them at five furlongs in company—one of the rare instances in recent Kentucky Derby history in which a stable’s Derby and Oaks candidates have teamed up for an important work so close to their respective races.
The result of the head-to-head effort left Maker smiling as Dean’s Kitten, working on the outside, and Age of Humor finished together in :59.80. The moves over the fast six-furlong dirt surface tied for the fastest of 10 works at the distance at Trackside.
“They’re a pretty good match,” said Maker. “Today was supposed to be Age of Humor’s good work and Dean’s Kitten, he’s not that great of a work horse. He needed to do a little something today, so that’s why we did it.
“Everything was great. That was better than the norm for Dean’s Kitten, and Age of Humor, we tried a little something different on her, blinkers today, because she’s usually a little laid-back too—but she looked very keen to go on. So we are very excited about her.”
Workout pairings of Oaks and Derby contenders have been rare in recent history. The most memorable recent move was trainer Charlie Whittingham’s work that matched Derby contender Ferdinand with Oaks hopeful Hidden Light in 1986. Ferdinand got the strong pre-Derby work that Whittingham thought he needed and the colt went on to give the Hall of Fame trainer the first of his two Kentucky Derby victories, while Hidden Light finished off the board in the Kentucky Oaks.
Dean’s Kitten and Age of Humor will have one more work April 24 before their respective races.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred Dean’s Kitten, winner of the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II), is guaranteed a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby May 1. But Age of Humor has to have some luck to run in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks as she is on the outside looking in when it comes to the graded stakes earnings on which participation in the race is determined. Her near-miss in the Bourbonette pushed her earnings total to $39,400, which is only good enough at this point for 20th place on a listed of 24 fillies considered likely to run in the race. The Oaks is limited to 14 starters, with preference to fillies with the highest earnings in graded stakes.
“Getting her in is the biggest question,” said Maker. “She’s a little light on seasoning, but I’ll tell you what, I’m anxious to run her a mile and an eighth. Very anxious.”
Dean’s Kitten is one of two Kentucky Derby hopefuls in Maker’s care. The other is Thomas and Jack Conway’s Stately Victory, the 40-1 upset winner of the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I). Stately Victor galloped early April 17 at Trackside and is scheduled to work April 24.