08/12/2011 4:13PM

Saratoga: Big Blue Kitten steps up to win Hall of Fame

Barbara D. Livingston
Big Blue Kitten, with John Velazquez riding, wins the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Big Blue Kitten was risked for a claiming tag not once, not twice, but three times to start his career, but he has come quite a ways since then. On Friday at Saratoga, he won his fifth race in six starts with a mild surprise in the Grade 2, $150,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes, for 3-year-olds on the turf.

Big Blue Kitten ($11), just off the early pace duel of Rustler Hustler and Humble and Hungry, took over in upper stretch and safely held off the belated bid of Perregaux to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:42.91 for 1 1/16 miles on firm turf. Humble and Hungry was another half-length back in third.

Street Game, surprisingly cold on the board at 2-1 after opening as the 8-5 morning-line favorite, faded after racing three paths wide the whole way and wound up last in the field of seven.

"He's just getting a little bit better all the time," said Chad Brown, who trains Big Blue Kitten for the colt's owner and breeder, Ken Ramsey. "Running him in claiming races ended up working in our favor. It gave him a lot of confidence. He knows how to win."

Big Blue Kitten ran twice in maiden-claiming race at Gulfstream earlier this year, and after winning his second start, was again risked in a claiming race, at Keeneland. There were no takers. Since then, he won a starter allowance at Belmont, and then a first-level allowance at Belmont, the last two times with John Velazquez, who was aboard again on Friday.
"I could tell he was a good horse the last time the way he ranged up at the quarter pole," Brown said. "Even though he only won by a half-length, Johnny came by the next day and said, 'I know what to do. He needs a target. Leave me on him.' He had this race mapped out for six weeks."

Big Blue Kitten is by Kitten's Joy, a former turf star for Ramsey, who stands the horse at stud.