05/07/2016 3:50PM

Camelot Kitten by a head in American Turf

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Justin N. Lane
Camelot Kitten (inside) gets up in time to beat Beach Patrol in the American Turf Stakes on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The addition of blinkers, a surprisingly quick pace, and a perfect ride by Irad Ortiz Jr. all combined to put Camelot Kitten in the winner’s circle after Saturday’s $300,000 American Turf at Churchill Downs.

Camelot Kitten, a homebred son of Kitten’s Joy owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, entered the Grade 2 American Turf with just one start since a disappointing effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf six months ago, a second-place finish under entry-level allowance conditions at Keeneland on April 13. Trainer Chad Brown opted to put blinkers on the lightly raced 3-year-old for his return to stakes competition, and the move paid big dividends, with a little additional help along the way.

The red-hot Shakhimat figured to control the pace in the 1 1/16-mile American Turf in the same manner he had when going wire to wire to capture the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland four weeks ago. But he wound up receiving a somewhat surprising early challenge from Airoforce, who headed Shakhimat from the inside going into the clubhouse turn and engaged in what proved to be a suicidal speed duel for the two leaders through early splits of 23.27 seconds, 46.04, and 1:10.63 for the opening six furlongs.

That early battle set the stage for a spirited stretch duel between Beach Patrol, who ranged up outside the tiring leaders to gain a short advantage inside the eighth pole, and Camelot Kitten, who found ample room inside Airoforce while rallying along the rail. The duo dueled on even terms until near the wire, at which point Camelot Kitten gradually asserted his superiority, prevailing by a head over the hard-luck runner-up. Surgical Strike rallied mildly to finish third, another 2 1/4 lengths behind Beach Patrol.

Camelot Kitten completed the distance over a firm course in 1:41.13 and paid $39.40.

“[Ortiz] worked out a really good trip from that post position,” said Brown. “We made a little equipment change, put blinkers on the horse. The horse had always trained like a top-level stakes horse, but in the afternoons, I really didn’t think we were getting everything out of him. Between the blinkers and Irad’s great ride, it made the difference.”

Brown said he felt Camelot Kitten is eligible to stretch out farther as the season progresses.

“He’s a full brother to Bobby’s Kitten, but he’s a different type of horse,” said Brown. “He’s a lighter-framed, leggier horse, and it looks like he’ll run on a bit. I’m not exactly sure what that ceiling is, but I think he’ll run beyond a mile and one-sixteenth, so we’ll probably inch him out from here.”