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No Derby, But Still Joy for Kitten

Third crop sire Kitten's Joy (TrueNicks,SRO) had a big meet at Keeneland. Derby Kitten captured the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III, video below), and although he probably won't have the earnings to attempt to live up to his name at Churchill Downs, he could still point to the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Another Kitten’s Joy 3-year-old, Holiday for Kitten, captured the 5½ furlong Giant’s Causeway Stakes, and a member of his first crop, Dean’s Kitten, took second to all-weather monster Exhi in the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III).

Derby Kitten, bred by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, was making his first start on anything other than turf. Of course Kitten’s Joy (also owned and bred by the Ramseys) was bred to be a turf horse, as he was by Sadler’s Wells son El Prado out of a Lear Fan mare, and he earned an Eclipse Award on that surface at 3 after a campaign that saw him capture six of his eight starts, all graded stakes events, including the Secretariat Stakes (gr. I) and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (gr. I), and also take second in the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I).

The Ramseys heavily supported Kittens Joy when he retired to their Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville, Kentucky. He sired five stakes winners in his first crop (now 4-year-olds), all of them bred by the Ramseys. They were led by Dean’s Kitten, who took the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II); William’s Kitten, who is also multiple graded-placed; and Sweet Kitten, a multiple graded stakes winner in Puerto Rico, where she was champion 2-year-old filly.

Derby Kitten and his brother William’s Kitten are the first two runners for their dam, the Menifee mare Blush. A three-time winner, Blush is out of Cerise, a daughter of Rahy, and a half sister to the good sprint filly Traverse City (by Rahy’s broodmare sire, Halo), who was successful in the Interborough Handicap (gr. III), La Troienne Stakes, Correction Handicap, and Four Winds Stakes. Derby Kitten’s third dam, Cherry Jubilee (by Coastal) was also an accomplished runner, taking the Next Move Handicap (gr. III), but she had a better half brother in the shape of Willow Hour, who was a 24-1 longshot when defeating champions Pleasant Colony, Lord Avie, and Lemhi Gold for the 1981 Travers Stakes (gr. I).

The broad Sadler’s Wells/Storm Cat cross which produced Derby Kitten has not been the most prolific, with eight stakes winners from 149 starters, the best of whom is last year’s Irish and French group I-winning juvenile Misty For Me (whose dam is by Storm Cat, out of a half sister to Derby Kitten’s broodmare sire Menifee, meaning Derby Kitten, William’s Kitten, and Misty For Me are bred on similar lines).

As far as Derby Kitten and his stakes-winning brother William’s Kitten are concerned, however, there are several other interesting patterns in play. To begin with, their grandsire El Prado is by a son of Northern Dancer out of a mare by Sir Ivor (by Sir Gaylord), while Storm Cat (in the male-line of the dam) is by Northern Dancer out of a mare by Secretariat (half brother to Sir Gaylord). Sadler’s Wells and El Prado are both Northern Dancer/Turn-to crosses, as is Harlan (grandsire of the dam of Derby Kitten and William’s Kitten), and with El Prado and Harlan, the Turn-to is through genetic relatives Sir Ivor and Halo (Halo is in at least two other stakes winners by Kitten’s Joy, and his other Keeneland stakes scorer, Holiday for Kitten, is out of a mare by a son of Stop the Music, another horse with a similar background to Sir Ivor and Halo). Halo is actually doubled in the dam of Derby Kitten and William’s Kitten, and he might also play off the dam of Kitten’s Joy, Kitten’s First, who is bred on an extended version of the Hail to Reason/Pharamond II cross that produced Halo (for good measure, the dam of El Prado is a Turn-to (sire of Hail to Reason)/Pharamond II cross). Finally, while Sadler’s Wells is a Northern Dancer/Bold Reason cross, Menifee, the broodmare sire of Derby Kitten and William’s Kitten, is a Northern Dancer/Never Bend cross, Never Bend being a half brother to Bold Reason. We can’t leave Kitten’s Joy with out mentioning that Holiday for Kitten is inbred 3x3 to Lear Fan. She’s the first stakes winner to have a duplication of that horse (which here gives Sadler’s Wells' third dam, Thong, with two crosses of her brother Lt. Stevens, the broodmare sire of Lear Fan), although we’re surprised to see that there have already been 10 starters with Lear Fan inbreeding.

While Kitten’s Joy just missed a stakes treble two weekends ago, he also prevented a weekend stakes treble for young Florida sire Wildcat Heir (TrueNicks,SRO). That horse's 4-year-old daughter Wildcat Marie captured the Whimsical Stakes (gr. III) at Woodbine. She is out of a mare by Wild Rush (by Wild Again) and TrueNicks rated A. The following day, his 4-year-old colt John Johny Jak won the Carterista Starter Stakes (not black type) on Florida Thoroughbred Charities Day. He’s actually the second stakes winner for the sire out of a mare by Saint Ballado, the first being last year’s quick graded stakes-winning filly Richiegirlgonewild. The Wildcat Heir who just missed out was Wild About Marie (dam by Valid Wager), who was beaten ½ length by Holiday for Kitten in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes.

As mentioned above, the horse who stopped Dean’s Kitten from giving Kitten’s Joy a stakes triple was Exhi. He beat Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Drosselmeyer by four lengths on the turf to break his maiden at 2, and was a good second to Concord Point (TrueNicks,SRO) in the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) on dirt at 3 last year. On all-weather though, he’s won five stakes events in six starts, including the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III), which marked his 2011 debut, and the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II). In fact, his only loss on the surface was a second, as a 3-year-old, to the good older horse Successful Dan in last year’s Fayette Handicap (gr. II). Rated A by TrueNicks, Exhi is by Maria’s Mon out of the stakes-winning Polish Numbers mare Soldera. The second dam, La Pepite, is by Mr. Prospector out of Fanfreluche (the most notable daughter of Northern Dancer, both as a runner and producer), and is therefore a three-parts-sister to Rolls, dam of one outstanding Australian sire in Flying Spur, and granddam of another in Encosta de Lago. Overall, you’d have to think that Exhi is going to make an interesting sire prospect somewhere in the world when his racing career is over.

That comment might also apply to another 4-year-old weekend stakes scorer, Thiskyhhasnolimit (TrueNicks A+). A son of Sky Mesa (TrueNicks,SRO), Thiskyhasnolimit won the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) at 2; the Matt Winn Stakes and Smarty Jones Stakes at 3; and on Saturday added the Texas Mile Stakes (gr. III) to his haul. His dam, Lovely Regina, is a Deputy Minister half sister to Bernardini (TrueNicks,SRO), so Thiskyhasnolimit is from the same male and female line as that horse.

Although champion 2-year-old Uncle Mo didn’t fire his best shot in the Wood Memorial (gr. I), his sire, Indian Charlie (TrueNicks,SRO), has been on the rampage with his 3-year-old colts this term. Five of them are stakes winners in 2011, the most recent being Adios Charlie (TrueNicks A++), who took the Jerome Stakes (gr. II) by 2½ lengths last weekend, and who could now point at the Preakness. Adios Charlie is out of the Northern Afleet (TrueNicks,SRO) mare Teak Totem, a stakes-winning sister to Teaks North, winner this year of the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. I). This is yet another among the legion of stakes winners by Indian Charlie out of Mr. Prospector line mares, and Adios Charlie is bred on similar lines to champion Fleet Indian (by Indian Charlie out of a mare by Afleet). He’s also another good Indian Charlie with reinforcement of the Northern Dancer/Raise a Native cross that produced Indian Charlie’s broodmare sire, Leo Castelli, with Northern Afleet being a Raise a Native/Northern Dancer cross.

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