02/04/2011 3:28PM

Cozy Kitten steps up for Gulfstream's Hallandale Beach Stakes


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Wesley Ward entered his Grade 3 stakes placed 3-year-old Cozy Kitten in an allowance race on Saturday as well as Sunday’s $100,000 Hallandale Beach and pretty much left the decision of where to run up to his owner, Ken Ramsey.

“Ken said if he’s gonna be a bear, he might as well be a grizzly bear, so we’re going for it,” Ward said when confirming that Cozy Kitten would compete in the 1 1/16-mile Hallandale Beach.

Cozy Kitten has started twice, winning his debut with a strong stretch run at Monmouth Park on Sept. 4 before calling it a year after finishing second behind the highly regarded Rogue Romance in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Bourbon five weeks later.

“I was battling shins with him prior to his win at Monmouth,” Ward said. “So I babied him into the stakes, and he ran a great race even with the shins. We got right to the Breeders’ Cup but decided to back up, give him some time to come around, and he’s doing just fantastic. He’s dappled from his nose to his toes, has worked well over this course, and is absolutely ready to run his best race. Whether that’s good enough to put him in the winner’s circle against more experienced and seasoned horses, I don’t know.”

Cozy Kitten will face nine rivals in the Hallandale Beach, including King Congie, Private Prize, and East of Danzig, the first-, second-, and fourth-place finishers, respectively, in Calder’s Tropical Park Derby.

King Congie rallied from midpack to register a half-length decision over pacesetter Private Prize in the Tropical Derby, proving best despite drifting through midstretch. The win was the second straight for King Congie since being switched to the turf by trainer Tom Albertrani for his 2-year-old finale.

Private Prize has improved with every start while testing all surfaces, having debuted on Polytrack and winning his maiden over the main track at Churchill Downs at 2.

King Congie is one of two horses in the field trained by Albertrani whose strong hand also includes Brilliant Speed. The Live Oak Planation homebred ran the best race of his career when beaten a nose by Adirondack Summer, despite traffic issues in the Dania Beach on Jan. 16.

Master Dunker also ran a big race in the Dania Beach, rallying to finish third following a slow start.