01/19/2018 11:28AM

Kitten's Joy continues to dominate turf sire ranks

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Barbara D. Livingston
Kitten's Joy has reigned over America's turf sire ranks for five consecutive years.

In case the first four times he did it didn’t prove that Kitten’s Joy is a transcendent sire of turf runners, the new resident of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms went ahead and led North America’s stallion ranks by grass earnings for a fifth straight year in 2017.

By wide margins, the 17-year-old son of El Prado was the continent’s leading sire by turf starters (234), winners (94), and earnings ($9,730,064). With two-thirds of his earnings coming on the grass in a jurisdiction that heavily favors dirt racing, Kitten’s Joy finished fifth on the North American general sire list by earnings last year, at $14,107,610.

Kitten’s Joy will stand his first season at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Lexington, Ky., for $60,000 after standing his first 12 years at the farm of his owners-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey in Nicholasville, Ky. The move came as part of a 50 percent purchase in the stallion by Hill ‘n’ Dale’s John G. Sikura in October.

Prior to the move, Kitten’s Joy was a passion project for the Ramseys, who proved the sire with books of mares largely consisting of their own stock. Relatives of Kitten’s Joy would be meticulously placed in stakes races around the country to give the family’s centerpiece a diverse selection of black type.

In his new location, and under a new management philosophy, Sikura said Kitten’s Joy would be opened up to an entirely different population of broodmares.

“You never get chances to stand a leading sire” at the peak of his success, he said. “He’s clearly the most proficient sire of turf horses here. They win at the highest level. They’ve [placed in] a Group 1 race in Japan and won a Group 1 race in England on top of his North American success, so while it’s hard to say a horse at 17 is just beginning, we believe he is.

“The pipeline’s full. Now we’re accessing commercial breeders, international breeders.”

To the surprise of no one, Kitten’s Joy led all sires by Beyer Speed Figures of 100 or more earned by his runners on the turf, at 17. What might be more surprising is that number also gave him the most 100-plus Beyers on all surfaces last year, without adding any on dirt or synthetic. Kitten’s Joy also was second by all-surface 90-plus Beyer efforts, at 78.

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The top domestic runners by Kitten’s Joy included Grade 1 winners Sadler’s Joy, Oscar Performance, and Divisidero; Grade 2 winners Kitten’s Roar and Conquest Panthera; and Grade 3 winners Oscar Nominated and Granny’s Kitten.

The international influence of Kitten’s Joy reached into Europe with English Group 2 winners Hawkbill and Roaring Lion, French Group 2 winner Taareef, and Irish Group 3 winner Liquid Amber. In Japan, Kitten’s Joy was represented by Group 2 winner Gendarme and Group 3 winner Dashing Blaze.

Sadler’s Joy was the top Beyer performer for his sire in 2017, earning a 105 for his victory in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga, a 104 for winning the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and another 104 when third in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga. He also earned a 103 for his second in the Grade 3 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Gulfstream and hit a 102 in a third-place effort in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Handicap at Belmont.

Divisidero also was a three-time earner of 100-plus Beyers in 2017, led by a 103 for his victory in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs.

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