Updated on 04/07/2013 4:39PM

Keeneland: Hungry Island sharp in prep for Churchill Distaff Turf Mile


LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Hungry Island made her return to the races a winning one at Keeneland on Sunday, passing Grade 1 winner Karlovy Vary in the stretch on the way to a one-length victory in a $68,000 turf allowance, the third race of the day.

Off since a third-place finish in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 6, Hungry Island, the winner of two Grade 2 stakes last year, paid $4.60 as the favorite in the five-horse race, contested at one mile on the firm Keeneland turf. Behind Karlovy Vary, the winner of the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes last year on Keeneland’s synthetic main track, was Revelstoke, who was no threat to the top two horses. Final time was 1:35.06.

Trainer Shug McGaughey said after the race that Hungry Island would be pointed next to the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile on the undercard of the May 4 Kentucky Derby, a race she won last year. McGaughey used an allowance race at Keeneland to prep Hungry Island for the Distaff Turf Mile last year, off a five-month layoff, but she could only manage third in the 2012 prep.

“I think she’s better this year than she was at this time last year,” McGaughey said. “I liked everything I saw today. The only question going in was whether she was going to be fit enough.”

A 5-year-old More Than Ready mare, Hungry Island raced in third for most of the race behind pacesetter Exclusive Love, who was followed by Karlovy Vary. Rider J.J. Castellano swung her to the outside when Karlovy Vary took the lead at the top of the stretch, and she easily wore down her rival by midstretch.

“She went really good today,” Castellano said.

Emotional Kitten continues hot hand for Ramseys

Emotional Kitten, a 3-year-old filly owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, closed furiously in the final furlong to just nip Adriani in the eighth and featured race at Keeneland on Sunday.

Emotional Kitten and the rest of the 12-horse field looked hopelessly beaten at the eighth pole after Adriani, the third choice, surged forward to open a four-length lead shortly after entering the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race on Keeneland’s firm turf. But Emotional Kitten kept charging under Joel Rosario, and at the wire only a photo could separate the two.

Trained by Wesley Ward, Emotional Kitten was coming off a third-place finish in a March 3 allowance race at Gulfstream Park that also featured four other horses in the Keeneland first-level allowance. She won her maiden in her previous start, on Dec. 9 at Gulfstream, in a $75,000 maiden claiming race.

Emotional Kitten paid $15.40 as the race’s fourth choice. Adriani was followed by Kitten’s Queen, another horse owned by Ramsey and part of an entry with Emotional Kitten. Hot Tempo, a longshot, finished fourth.

Time for the race was 1:42.95. The opening quarter, set by Neith, who led to the top of the stretch while closely tracked by Adriani, was clocked in 22:68 seconds. Joe Graham, aboard Neith, calmed his mount down through the next half-mile, with the three-quarters fraction clocked in 1:12.13.

The win in Keeneland’s feature was the second win in a row for the Ramseys on Sunday, who took the seventh, a maiden special weight, with Honor the Kitten. Through the eighth at Keeneland on Sunday, the Ramseys, perennially at the top of the Keeneland standings, had five wins at the 3-day-old Keeneland meet from 14 starters.

* Keeneland announced on Sunday that combined attendance for the first three days of its spring meet set a record, at 66,523. The previous record was 62,257, according to the track.