09/25/2005 11:00PM

Kitten's Joy, 4, retired

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Kitten's Joy, the Eclipse Award winner for top turf horse of 2004, was retired Monday by owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey after it became apparent the colt would be unable to continue performing at a high level.

Kitten's Joy has been hindered in recent weeks by what trainer Dale Romans described as "wear and tear in his cartilage." Kitten's Joy underwent knee surgery shortly after finishing second as the odds-on favorite in the Breeders' Cup Turf last fall. The colt had raced twice this year, winning the July 4 Firecracker Handicap and then finishing second in his final career start, the Arlington Million on Aug. 13.

"He hasn't been quite right since the Million," said trainer Dale Romans. "I could see that he was a little different, that he was carrying a little pressure in the knee."

, a 4-year-old by El Prado out of the Ramsey mare Kitten's First, ends his career with 9 wins from 14 starts and earnings of $2,075,791. In earning an Eclipse last year, the colt won 6 of 7 starts, all graded stakes, and was particularly impressive in his two Grade 1 triumphs, the Secretariat and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.

Ken Ramsey said he plans to stand Kitten's Joy at stud next year at his Nicholasville, Ky., farm, where the colt was bred."We won't set the stud fee too high because I want the small breeders to be able to get their mares to him," he said.Kitten's Joy has been in training at Belmont Park and was scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Lexington on a charter flight from New York.

Romans had been optimistic this spring that Kitten's Joy would return to top form, but he said that after the colt went through a subpar workout on Sept. 12 on the Belmont turf course, "I could just tell the horse wasn't 100 percent."Subsequent consultations with veterinarian Dr. Steve Allday proved his suspicions correct.

"It's a shame, because he was such a great horse to be around," said Romans. "Who knows if you'll ever have one as good as him?"

Ramsey said Kitten's Joy "brought untold joy to me and my family. If he couldn't go at 1,000 percent, it wouldn't have been fair for us to keep asking him for more. We're glad to bring him home and get him started on his next career as a stud."