06/20/2013 2:15PM

Hot Sire: Kitten's Joy


Kitten's JoyJoy Gilbert photo/courtesy Ramsey FarmKitten's Joy

For handicappers who use pedigree analysis in their calculations, the emergence of Kitten’s Joy as a multisurface sire over the past five years has added a new and often-lucrative twist to the process of picking winners at certain venues.

The proliferation of Kitten’s Joy’s offspring at tracks in Kentucky, New York, and Florida in particular has helped bettors narrow down their selections, with “Kitten’s Joy on turf” and “Kitten’s Joy on Poly” proving time and again to be popular, and helpful, maxims.

Kitten’s Dumplings’s easy win in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes on the June 15 Stephen Foster undercard at Churchill Downs gave Kitten’s Joy yet another graded stakes winner on turf, although in this case, there was little surprise among the wagering public, as the 3-year-old filly left the gate as the 7-10 favorite. Her win came one week after Stephanie’s Kitten, Kitten’s Joy’s best runner to date, scored a Grade 1 turf win in the Just a Game Stakes at Belmont, her second graded win in two starts since returning to the track as a 4-year-old.

The resounding success of Kitten’s Joy as a sire follows an Eclipse Award-winning racing career during the mid-2000s that helped elevate Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s racing and breeding operation to the highest levels of the sport. The details of Ken Ramsey’s gradual immersion into the Thoroughbred world have been recounted often, as the Army veteran from Artemus, Ky., developed a passion for horses at a young age and dabbled in the business while succeeding in real estate and telecommunications before going full-bore into the sport some 20 years ago.

Kitten’s First, the dam of Kitten’s Joy, was the catalyst for the Ramseys’ early success despite winning only once during her racing career. The Ramseys sold the Lear Fan mare’s first foal, Justenuffheart, to Frank Calabrese after her maiden win, and the daughter of Broad Brush would go on to win two stakes races and earn more than $300,000 during the late 1990s. As a broodmare, she produced the champion filly Dreaming of Anna and multiple Grade 2 winner Lewis Michael for Calabrese and multiple Grade 2 winner Justenuffhumor for breeder Mt. Brilliant Farm.

The Ramseys would keep Kitten’s First’s fourth foal, Kitten’s Joy, and revel in his accomplishments during 2003-05 as they continued to expand on their original 1994 purchase of historic Almahurst Farm in Nicholasville, Ky., renamed Ramsey Farm. By El Prado, Kitten’s Joy won his first stakes, the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby, in early 2004 and would go on to win five of his seven subsequent starts that year, all stakes.

During the late summer and fall, he scored back-to-back Grade 1 wins in the Secretariat and Joe Hirsch Turf and was heavily favored in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Lone Star. Better Talk Now posted a memorable upset in that race, but Kitten’s Joy finished a solid second, and his overall 3-year-old campaign was good enough to secure him the Eclipse Award as champion turf male.

Kitten’s Joy won the Grade 2 Firecracker and ran second to Powerscourt in the Arlington Million as a 4-year-old before calling it a career due to minor cartilage issues. Overall, Kitten’s Joy won nine of 14 starts – including seven stakes, all graded – and earned $2,075,791.

His success on the track would immediately be followed by the exploits of Kitten’s First’s fifth foal, Precious Kitten. By Ramsey Farm stallion Catienus, the filly would tally three Grade 1 wins and earn almost $2 million during three racing seasons, her career taking off just after the farm’s beloved foundation mare was euthanized in January 2006.

Kitten’s Joy’s retirement to Ramsey Farm in the fall of 2005 occurred just as Turfway Park became the first U.S. track to install a synthetic racing surface, Polytrack. The stallion’s first foals would race in 2009, with a lot of them showing up at both Turfway and Keeneland, which by then also had installed Polytrack. His progeny’s subsequent success on turf and synthetic surfaces, with some good dirt horses in the mix, would help the Ramseys win the Eclipse Award as outstanding owners in 2011.

Through last Tuesday, Kitten’s Joy ranked sixth on the North American general sire list, first – by more than $1.2 million – on the turf list, and fifth on the all-weather list. He ranked 15th, fifth, and 15th on those lists last year. Given Stephanie’s Kitten’s sharp return and the emergence of Kitten’s Dumplings and fellow stakes-winning 3-year-olds Kitten’s Point and Charming Kitten (who also ran third in the Grade 1 Blue Grass on Keeneland’s Polytrack), 2013 is shaping up to be the stallion’s best year yet.

Kitten’s Joy was bred to 213 mares in 2012 – third most in North America – and the stallion has served as a fulcrum of sorts to expand Ramsey Farm from a successful homebreeding operation to a force in the commercial arena.

His yearlings averaged $65,411 in 2012 – topped by a $300,000 colt named Marzocco out of Grade 3-placed Dynamia at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga – and his juveniles have upped that mark this year, averaging $129,429. Two of those sold for $260,000 at the OBS March select sale: Countryman, out of the Dixieland Band mare Oh What a Feeling, and Sunny Kat, out of the Miswaki mare Waki Affair.

Kitten’s Dumplings’s pedigree is turf-oriented on her female side. Her dam, the Grand Slam mare Granny Franny, made eight of her 10 career starts on either turf or synthetic surfaces, with all three of her wins coming in her last three starts at Turfway Park.

Kitten’s Dumplings’s second dam, the Irish-bred Sadler’s Wells mare Franziska, is a half-sister to Irish Group 3 winner Aminata, who produced Group 3 winner Swift Gulliver and multiple turf stakes winner Abderian. Double Form, a champion sprinter over the Longchamp lawn in France, is from the same female family.

Unlike Stephanie’s Kitten, who scored a Grade 1 win on a synthetic surface in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland as a juvenile, Kitten’s Dumplings has come up empty in her two starts on Polytrack while winning three stakes on turf. Nevertheless, the filly is well established as the latest in a long and growing line of Kitten’s Joy progeny who show up in the winner’s circle after turf and/or synthetic stakes events, usually sporting the farm’s red and white silks and accompanied by the ebullient Ken Ramsey.

On dirt, Kitten’s Joy’s 4-year-old son Csaba, who won the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope Stakes this year, is training at Calder.