08/05/2016 10:39PM

Camelot Kitten's nose hit wire first in Hall of Fame Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Camelot Kitten (left)and Irad Ortiz Jr. narrowly prevails over Aeroforce in the Hall of Fame Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -  For the last 50 yards of the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga, Camelot Kitten and Airoforce were basically on even terms with heads bobbing up and down to the wire. But so far this summer, things have been going trainer Chad Brown’s way. So, it was no surprise that when the wire came up, it was Camelot Kitten who got his nose down first and won the $200,000 race over Airoforce.

The win was the third on the card for Brown, who now has a meet-best 13, two more than Todd Pletcher. Four of those wins have come in graded turf stakes.

Brown said as he watched the race live “I thought he had it for sure. As I walked down I thought he didn’t get the greatest bob there, but luckily he got his nose down first. The horse deserved to win.”

Camelot Kitten, a son of Kitten’s Joy, is now 4 for 8, but 3 for 4 since adding blinkers. He won the Grade 2 American Turf, Grade 3 Pennine Ridge, and now the Hall of Fame. His lone loss with blinkers came in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby at 1 1/4 miles when he was fourth, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths.

“This horse has always shown a lot of talent, he just wasn’t finishing off his races the way he should,” Brown said. “As soon as we put the blinkers on him this was his fourth great race in them. It was the final piece of the puzzle for him.”

Under Irad Ortiz Jr., Camelot Kitten raced in fourth position, outside of Strike Midnight and behind Giant Run, who set modest fractions of 25.08 seconds for the quarter-mile, 49.17 for the half, and 1:12.88 for six furlongs while being chased by Airoforce.

Ortiz said he felt Airoforce was the horse to beat so he followed him. Airoforce, under Julien Leparoux, made a bid for the lead from Giant Run midway around the turn, but Giant Run stood his ground and stayed on.

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Ortiz went three wide and hooked up with that duo in upper stretch. Inside the sixteenth pole, Giant Run gave way and it was just Camelot Kitten and Airoforce left to duke it out. Airoforce had his nose in front at least twice en route to the wire but Camelot Kitten had it in front when it mattered.

Camelot Kitten, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.76 and returned $5.80 as the 9-5 favorite.

“He likes to wait a little bit, that’s why we put the blinkers on,” said Ortiz, who was on two of Brown’s three winners. “I go little by little with him, I don’t ask for everything he had, I don’t want to make the lead too early so I wait a little longer. When I asked him he was there for me.”

Airoforce finished second by three-quarters of a length over Strike Midnight, who was followed by Giant Run, Isotherm, and Unbridled Daddy.