12/09/2010 3:44PM

Dirt debut bodes well for Next Kitten in Edgar Futurity


STICKNEY, Ill. – Next Kitten is by Kitten’s Joy, a turf star in his day, and out of a mare by the European sire Danehill. His first four races came on turf and Polytrack, the surfaces for which he is best bred, but Next Kitten’s peak race came Nov. 24 at Hawthorne in his dirt debut, and it’s that performance that should make him the favorite in the $100,000 Jim Edgar Futurity on Saturday at Hawthorne.

Next Kitten was one of 10 eligible Illinois-breds entered in the 1 1/16-mile Edgar, the endpoint of the 2010 Chicago stakes calendar. He has a new rider for Saturday’s race, Florent Geroux, but a familiar name down as trainer, Wayne Catalano. Catalano started the Hawthorne fall-winter season slowly, but picked up steam in November, and now has won 11 races at the meet. One of those came courtesy of Next Kitten, who rallied from fifth in an open entry-level dirt-route allowance last month to win by a neck. It was encouraging that Next Kitten closed into a slow pace that day, but as winter wears on in Chicago, and the Hawthorne track more regularly becomes frozen, such wide-closing runs become more difficult to employ, and Next Kitten is far from a sure thing.

The horse he edged last out, Domain’s Rap, is back for the Edgar, one of two entrants from trainer Scott Becker. The other is Spatzel, who got the best of Domain’s Rap when those two met in a maiden race earlier in the meet. Spatzel has some talent, too, and finished second Nov. 10 in his two-turn debut despite breaking from post 12.

The horse who beat Spatzel, Table Games, also is in the Edgar, one of two entrants from trainer Chris Block, and, as with the Becker pair, the Block horses are a little difficult to separate, talent-wise. Table Games finished more than four lengths in front of Block’s other runner, Maxton, going two turns on Nov. 10, but Maxton was making his career debut in that race, and made an encouraging run to reach contention before flattening out late. Improvement is possible, and Maxton has the Edgar’s top pedigree, being by Arch, the sire of Breeder’ Cup Classic winner Blame, and out of Summer Mis, a top Illinois-bred during her racing career.