For the second year in a row, jockey Jerry Bailey rode a Kentucky homebred owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey to victory in the $100,000 Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT) on New Year's Day at Calder Race Course. Last year, it was Nothing to Lose for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Thursday it was Kitten's Joy for trainer Dale Romans.The Tropical Park Derby is annually the first "derby" of the new year in the country and, although it is contested over the turf course, it is recognized as the first step on the national Triple Crown trail for newly turned 3-year-olds.Kitten's Joy, a son of El Prado, was making just the fifth start of his career and his first stakes appearance in the Tropical Park Derby. A winner of his two previous races since switching to the grass, Kitten's Joy captured his third consecutive victory. "Right now, I'd say he might be as nice a horse as I've ever had," Roman said. "He really liked the move to turf. This was a very good field. Jerry (Bailey) said he was impressed and I really think a lot of his opinion." Racing wide most of the way, the chestnut colt came from off the pace set by Soverign Honor to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Broadway View. Soverign Honor was a neck behind in third, a head in front of Milestone Victory in fourth."He puts you in the race where you want to be, then he relaxes and comes off the bridle. I told Dale that I thought he had a kick left but I didn't think it was explosive as it was. It was a pretty good finish." Commenting on winning this race last year for the same owner, Bailey added, "If this years turns out as good as '03, I'll be in good shape."Bailey set national records for earnings and stakes victories last year.
Favored Timo wound up eighth after stumbling at the start and never getting involved.The second choice in a field of 11 three-year-olds, Kitten's Joy covered the 1 1/8-mile test over firm turf in 1:46 4/5 and paid $9.20, 6.40 and 5.80. Broadway View, a 35-1 shot, returned $26.60 and 13.80; Soverign Honor, sent off at 29-1, paid $16.20 to show.From the Lear Fan mare Kitten's First, Kitten's Joy earned $60,000 to push his career total to $140,115.