Three-year-old Kitten's Joy found older horses and the 1 1/2-mile distance to be non issues when registering an authoritative victory over favored Magistretti in the $750,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) on a yielding Belmont Park turf course Saturday.
With John Velazquez aboard for the first time for trainer Dale Romans, Kitten's Joy tracked the leaders on the outside while close to the pace throughout. Magistretti, left alone on the front end on the far turn when pacesetting Maktub gave way, tried to kick away at the top of the stretch but could not shake Kitten's Joy.
"He was dominant today," said winning trainer Dale Romans. "He impresses me more and more every race."
The chestnut son of El Prado
passed Magistretti near the eigthh pole and cruised to 2 1/2-length win in 2:29 4/5.
"When I hit him, he was like, 'Whoa!' and just took off," Velazquez said. "It was pretty easy. I wish every horse could be like him."
Magistretti, ridden by Edgar Prado, held on for second by three-quarters of a length over British challenger Tycoon, who closed strongly but had no excuse with Jamie Spencer aboard.
Maktub, an Italian-bred horse, set a moderate pace of :25, :50 4/5, 1:17 1/5 and 1:42 3/5.
It was the first start for Kitten's Joy against older horses and also his initial try at 12 furlongs.
"What amazed me about him is his turn of foot, acceleration and how kind he is during the race," Romans said. "When you ask him, he just turns it on. This is the best race he's run so far. I thought he would relish a mile and a half, and he showed that he did today."
Kitten's Joy, headed for the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park, won for the sixth time this year for owner/breeders Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, all on different courses. His only loss came by a head to Prince Arch in the Jefferson Cup (gr. IIIT) on a yielding Churchill Downs course in June.
"We're going to train right into Lone Star and the Breeders' Cup Turf," Romans said. "We're looking to go out there two weeks ahead of time with both horses (Kitten's Joy and Whitney Handicap winner Roses in May, who will run in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, powered by Dodge). I want them to get familiar with the surrounding and work over the track once."
The Hirsch was his second grade I win in succession after taking the Secretariat against 3-year-olds at Arlington Park on Aug. 14. The $450,000 winner's share Saturday pushed his earnings this year to $1,225,796.
The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was run for the first time in honor of the longtime dean of turf writers who retired earlier this year from his executive columnist role at the Daily Racing Form. He presented the trophy to the Ramseys.
Overall, Kitten's Joy has an 8-2-0 record in 11 starts with a bankroll of $1,305,911.
He paid $6.80, $3.30 and $2.80 as the second choice in the field of seven. Magistrettit returned $2.90 and $2.50. Tycoon's show was $4. The exacta was worth $17.20.
Trainer Patrick Biancone was not unhappy with Magistretti's performance but he was ambivalent about the immediate future.
"It's too early to think about the Breeders' Cup," he said. "This was a good race for him. It was a much better field than the last time he ran.
"We know he'll run in the Breeders' Cup, but maybe not this year. My horse would need to improve a lot in the next three weeks if he wanted to beat the top one. If he does, we'll go. If he doesn't, we won't."
Request for Parole was fourth, followed by Polish Summer, Kikcen Kris and Maktub