09/29/2004 11:00PM

New experience for Kitten's Joy

Benoit & Associates
Kitten's Joy, here winning the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat at Arlington, will try to go another quarter-mile Saturday with John Velazquez riding.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Kitten's Joy, the top 3-year-old turf horse in the country, enters uncharted waters in Saturday's $750,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park.

meets older horses and will be tested at 1 1/2 miles, two new experiences for him. If Kitten's Joy wins the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, he will simply be known as the best turf horse in the country.

Formerly named the Turf Classic, the race was renamed this year in honor of former Daily Racing Form columnist Joe Hirsch, who retired last November after 55 years with the paper.

For some in the seven-horse field, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic will serve as a stepping-stone to the Breeders' Cup Turf at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30. Four Turf Classic winners - Manila, Theatrical, Tikkanen, and Buck's Boy - have won the Breeders' Cup.

Tikkanen, the 1993 winner, is one of six 3-year-olds to have won the Turf Classic in its 27 runnings.

Kitten's Joy, a winner of five graded stakes this year, will have his work cut out for him in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. His challengers include Grade 1 winners, Magistretti, Kicken Kris, Request for Parole, and Polish Summer. European invaders Tycoon and Maktub complete the field.

Dale Romans, trainer of Kitten's Joy, is optimistic the colt will handle the stretch-out to 12 furlongs. In his last start, Kitten's Joy won the Grade 1 Secretariat at 1 1/4 miles at Arlington on Aug. 14.

"We had the same questions when we moved to a mile and a quarter," said Romans, who trains Kitten's Joy for Ken and Sarah Ramsey. "But he does whatever a rider wants him to do. He'll sit as long as he wants and he seems to have a good turn of foot every time they call on him."

John Velazquez will ride Kitten's Joy for the first time from post 5.

won the Grade 1 Man o' War over a yielding course while making his second U.S. start here Sept. 11. He came with a powerful late run and won the race by 1 1/4 lengths. Patrick Biancone, Magistretti's trainer, believes some of the heavy rain that fell during the week gave the Widener Turf a proper soaking.

"There should be some moisture in there to make it a good European track," said Biancone, who won the Turf Classic with All Along in 1983. "The horse is doing well, and I think this will be a good race for him."

runs for the first time since the Arlington Million on Aug. 14. He finished second, but was declared the winner after hitting the rail when impeded by Powerscourt, who was disqualified from first.

Kicken Kris has won two graded stakes at Belmont, the Lawrence Realization and Bowling Green.

"I think the sweeping turns help him, because he is a big horse," said Michael Matz, Kicken Kris's trainer.

Polish Summer, a 7-year-old with more than $2.2 million in earnings, ships in from France for Andre Fabre, who won this race with Apple Tree in 1993.

Request for Parole, who won the United Nations at Monmouth in July, will run only if the turf is firm.

Maktub has traveled the world this year, running in Denmark, Turkey, England, and Italy. Tycoon, a 3-year-old, is Group 1 placed for trainer Aidan O'Brien.

The field

Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational
Purse: $750,000; 1 1/2 miles (turf); Grade 1

1Kicken KrisJ. Castellano1264-1
2Request for ParoleC. Velasquez1268-1
3MaktubJ. Chavez12612-1
4MagistrettiE. Prado1262-1
5Kitten's JoyJ. Velazquez1213-1
6TycoonJ. Spencer1216-1
7Polish SummerG. Stevens1268-1

* DRF line
* Televison: Saturday, 4-6 p.m. (Eastern), ESPN