02/13/2015 3:48PM

Leading Kentucky sires: Kitten's Joy

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Barbara D. Livingston
Kitten's Joy stands at Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville, Ky.

Leading Kentucky general sire by stakes winners
Leading Kentucky juvenile sire by stakes winners (tie)
Leading Kentucky turf sire by earnings, winners,  stakes winners, and stakes wins

Success can be a moving target.

On the sire list, Kitten’s Joy fell from first to third by total progeny earnings in 2014, a year removed from the season that made him a household name.

By just about any other measure, it was the best season Kitten’s Joy has had as a sire.

Runners by Kitten’s Joy, a 14-year-old son of El Prado, earned $11,713,264 last year from 294 starters and 149 winners, with 25 stakes winners. Those results were all improvements from 2013, when Kitten’s Joy topped the North American general sire list by earnings, with $11,283,838 from 257 starters, 133 winners, and 24 stakes winners.

Ken Ramsey, who owns, bred, and stands Kitten’s Joy with his wife, Sarah, at their Nicholasville, Ky. farm, said that the upward trend for his stallion will continue, with the best crop of mares the stallion has bred poised to make their 2-year-old debuts in 2015. Those runners, many homebred, will be crucial to the Ramseys’ quest to earn three straight Eclipse Awards as both outstanding owners and breeders.

“He’s phenomenal, no matter what you breed him to,” Ramsey said. “He’s got a remarkable pedigree. The gene pool is very deep. You’ve got that Sadler’s Wells line in there. Galileo is by Sadler’s Wells, and, of course, Kitten’s Joy’s grandfather is Sadler’s Wells. When you match them back up with Northern Dancer in the pedigree, they can run. I don’t care the quality of the horse, some of them can run a little bit and some of them can run a lot, but all of them can run some.”

Kitten’s Joy will stand at Ramsey Farm in 2015 for an advertised fee of $100,000.

The 2014 racing calendar saw Kitten’s Joy once again lead Kentucky sires in a slew of categories. He was Kentucky’s leading sire of juvenile stakes winners for the first time, sharing the top spot with Stormy Atlantic and Scat Daddy with five each. Kitten’s Joy was the state’s top sire by stakes winners (25) and turf stakes wins (23), as well as the leading sire by turf earnings ($8,649,565) for a second consecutive year, and he became a three-time leader by turf winners (91) and turf stakes winners (20).

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Bobby’s Kitten led the class last year, giving Kitten’s Joy his second winner in the Breeders’ Cup. The first was Stephanie’s Kitten, winner of the 2011 Juvenile Fillies Turf, who finished second in last year’s Filly and Mare Turf, but earned a win in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes earlier in the year.

Other top runners by Kitten’s Joy in 2014 include Grade 1 winner Real Solution, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Luck of the Kitten, Grade 2 winner Pick of the Litter, and Grade 3 winners Suntracer, Home Run Kitten, Admiral Kitten, and Munirah. Overseas, Steaming Kitten became a Group 3 winner in Italy while Jolly Good Kitten won a stakes race in France.

The success of Kitten’s Joy’s foals on turf is hardly a surprise, considering the stallion’s own race record. All nine of his career victories came on grass, including the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes and Secretariat Stakes, the Grade 2 Firecracker Breeders’ Cup Handicap, and a quartet of Grade 3 races. He was named champion turf male in 2004 during a campaign in which he finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Ramsey was quick to note the powerful force of genetics within the sire line of Kitten’s Joy and the leg up it offers his foals. Kitten’s Joy is the sixth consecutive generation from his sire line to be named champion on the racetrack.

Turf champion Kitten’s Joy is by El Prado, who was Ireland’s champion 2-year-old in 1991. Sadler’s Wells was France’s champion miler in 1984, while Northern Dancer was named 1964 Horse of the Year in Canada. Northern Dancer followed the lead of his sire, Nearctic, who was Canada’s Horse of the Year in 1958, while Nearco was a two-time champion in Italy in the late 1930s.

“If you talk about yourself, and your daddy, and your granddaddy, and your great-grandaddy, and your great-great-grandaddy; if all of them were the President of the United States, they’re kind of expecting you to at least get into politics,” Ramsey said.