09/28/2017 11:40AM

Ramsey looks to refocus marketing of Kitten's Joy

Barbara D. Livingston
Ken Ramsey says he has received about 10-12 offers from around the globe regarding Kitten's Joy.

Ken Ramsey has made a successful stallion of his homebred champion Kitten’s Joy by marching to the beat of his own drum. Soon, he and his stallion might be playing for a different audience.

The Nicholasville, Ky.,-based owner and breeder said he needed to boost the commercial appeal of Kitten’s Joy, a 16-year-old who was North America’s leading sire by earnings in 2013 and currently sits second in this year’s standings behind Unbridled’s Song.

Despite those accolades, Ramsey said he found himself “disillusioned and disappointed” by continued unsatisfactory results in the yearling auction market.

Of the 67 Kitten’s Joy yearlings to go through the ring in North America this year, 33 have sold for an average of $111,606. That figure barely made it over his advertised stud fee of $100,000.

Kitten’s Joy was one of just four North American stallions to cover 200 or more mares in 2016, but Ramsey said he owned many of the mares in whole or partnership, and more still were bred by end-users, leaving a different sampling of foals for auction than a typical book of that size. Pairing that with the general ceiling placed on turf-leaning horses in the North American commercial market left Ramsey looking to shake things up.

At the moment, he said, a full slate of options sat in front of him, with no decisions made.

Last week, Ramsey told the Thoroughbred Daily News that he had been in discussions with farms in Europe that offered access to broodmares and racing programs friendlier to the stallion’s turf leanings. European runners by Kitten’s Joy are led by Group 1 winner Hawkbill.

Farms in other turf-friendly parts of the globe have been in touch as well.

In total, Ramsey said, he received 10 to 12 proposals.

“A lot of them were tire-kickers,” he said. “Just people asking, ‘What could we do? How could we work something out?’

“The horse is highly sought-after and highly respected,” Ramsey continued, referencing the global suitors. “A lot of these people have pitches for what they could do with him, and I’m just weighing everything.”

The option also remains to keep Kitten’s Joy in Kentucky and stand him at a reduced fee, or take on partners in the horse. The latter would be a somewhat radical step for Ramsey, who owns 50 percent of Kitten’s Joy – the other half belonging to his wife, Sarah – and proved the stallion almost entirely with his own broodmare band.

“I have not even thought of syndicating Kitten’s Joy, but that’s one option if we keep him here in Kentucky,” Ramsey said. “We might work out something where somebody could partner up on him and have some fresh ideas better than mine.”

Regardless of the outcome, a decision will not be made without Sarah’s approval. Though her speech and mobility are limited following a 2007 stroke, her attachment to the stallion and influence on his future remains strong. Kitten’s Joy is out of the first Thoroughbred she owned, Kitten’s First, and she gave the horse his name.

“We’ve gotten offers almost every single year from somebody wanting to stand him or buy him, but my wife considers him her horse,” Ken said. “She had a stroke a few years back and is on the fragile side, and she took the position that she did not want to sell that horse and did not want to send him overseas.

“She did finally say [it was okay to explore options for Kitten’s Joy], with the conditions that he come back over here [upon his pensioning], and not be shuttled,” he said. “We’ve had family meetings on what to do about this horse.”

From the Ramseys’s recent stud moves, it might appear they were angling toward getting out of standing stallions.

Kitten’s Joy is the only current member of the farm’s Kentucky stallion roster. Grade 1 winner Real Solution, a son of Kitten’s Joy, began his career at Ramsey Farm, but was later relocated to Calumet Farm. Meanwhile, Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Bobby’s Kitten, once pegged by Ramsey as the heir apparent to his flagship sire, was exported to England.

But Ramsey said their plan was quite the opposite.

“We’re not going to disband the Ramsey Farm operation should [Kitten’s Joy] leave, which is undetermined right now,” he said. “I’ve got too much infrastructure. I’ve got the breeding shed, the foaling barn, the pasture, the help, the mares. I’ve got everything. We’ve got all these broodmares, so we’re certainly not going to flood the market with them.

“I’ll probably either stand one of Kitten’s Joy’s sons on the farm, or maybe be in the market to buy myself a dirt stallion,” he continued. “I’ve been trying to breed me one. I paid $300,000 to breed to Tapit and ended up getting a filly, which I ended up selling. I do have one colt by Tapit called Hint of Roses, which ran third in a Grade 3 race [the 2016 Iowa Derby], but hurt himself. He’s back training super now. It’s pretty expensive to go out and buy one that’s won one of the Triple Crown races or the Travers or something, but I’m in the market for a good dirt stallion.”