01/16/2016 7:05PM

Leading Kentucky sires: Kitten's Joy


◗ Leading Kentucky turf sire by earnings, average earnings, winners, stakes winners, and stakes wins

Few of Kentucky’s leading stallions have their respective honors in their grasp as tightly as Kitten’s Joy has for the past several years.

So great is Kitten’s Joy’s dominance of North American turf sires that if his top two earners were removed from the equation, he still tops the standings by a seven-figure margin.

Led by multiple Grade 1 winners Stephanie’s Kitten and Big Blue Kitten, both 2015 Eclipse Award finalists, Kitten’s Joy leads the turf sire list for the third consecutive year with no signs of slowing. A homebred champion for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the son of El Prado stands at their Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville, Ky. He took command of the turf sire list in 2013 when he was the continent’s leading general sire, and hasn’t ceded control since. He finished third on the general sire list in 2014, and fourth this past season.

The Ramseys breed and campaign many of their champion’s offspring, including Stephanie’s Kitten and Big Blue Kitten. Rewarded for their faith in the stallion, they were again Eclipse finalists for outstanding owner and outstanding breeder in 2015. They have won the former four times, the latter twice, and swept both categories in 2013 and 2014.

Stephanie’s Kitten sustained her high-level ability over five seasons, winning Grade 1 events at ages 2, 4, 5, and 6, and winning stakes events each year she competed. She highlighted that consistency by book-ending her career with Breeders’ Cup triumphs, taking the 2011 Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs and the 2015 Filly and Mare Turf at Keeneland, her career finale before being sold to Japanese interests as a broodmare prospect. She finished second in the 2014 Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

In addition to her Breeders’ Cup performances, Stephanie’s Kitten won the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont Park twice, the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont, and the Grade 1 Alcibiades on Keeneland’s Polytrack as a juvenile. She won 10 stakes – nine of those graded – and placed in seven others, six of those Grade 1 events. She earned more than $4.2 million.

Big Blue Kitten rose out of the maiden-claiming ranks where he began his career to become among the most consistent older turf horses in the country, with 27 top-three finishes from 30 starts and earnings of more than $2.9 million. He turned in his best season at age 7 in 2015, not missing the board while scoring a pair of Grade 1 victories – a course-record performance in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park and a second score in the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth. He also won the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Stakes, finished second in the Grade 1 Arlington Million, and was third, the best finish by an American, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He has won or placed in 18 career stakes, with additional Grade 1 scores in the 2013 Sword Dancer Invitational and 2013 United Nations.

Kitten’s Joy, who entered stud in 2006, is represented by 422 career winners from 595 starters to date, a 71 percent strike rate, for earnings of $52,898,525 – a healthy average of $88,905 per starter. He has 69 stakes winners and 41 stakes-placed runners, a 26 percent rate of stakes horses from winners. His other top runners include Grade 1 winners Real Solution, Admiral Kitten, and Kitten’s Dumplings, and 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Bobby’s Kitten.

During his racing career, Kitten’s Joy won 9 of 14 career starts and earned $2,075,791, and never finished worse than second on turf. He earned a divisional Eclipse Award for the Ramseys by winning six graded stakes in 2004, including the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes. He finished second in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf at Lone Star Park.