02/28/2013 1:07PM

Turfway Park: Unbeaten Admiral Kitten is slight favorite in Battaglia

Coady Photography
Admiral Kitten has closed from near the back of the pack to win both of his starts.

No, there aren’t any Kentucky Derby points available Saturday in the $75,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes over the Polytrack surface at Turfway Park. But for some folks working backward from the May 4 Derby – such as Ken Ramsey – it seems like an ideal place to get in some useful practice for Polytrack races with points.

“I’m 77 years old, and getting back to the Derby is high on my bucket list,” Ramsey said this week from southern Florida, where the Kentucky native and his wife, Sarah, are the leading owners at the Gulfstream Park meet. “We’re going to try to get there any way we possibly can.”

Toward that end, trainer Mike Maker sent the Ramseys’s Admiral Kitten from Gulfstream to Turfway a couple of weeks ago so the homebred colt could get in some work over the local surface. Unbeaten in two races last year at 2, including the El Joven Stakes over the Retama Park turf, Admiral Kitten will return from a four-month layoff as one of 12 3-year-olds in the 31st running of the Battaglia, which goes at 1 1/16 miles as the ninth of 10 Saturday races at the northern Kentucky track.

Admiral Kitten has had nine workouts since he rallied to win the El Joven, getting in seven at Gulfstream before two more at Turfway.

“We want to see what he can do on the Poly,” Ken Ramsey said. “After this, you have the Poly races with points,” most notably the March 23 Spiral Stakes at Turfway (50 points to the winner) and the April 13 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland (100 to the winner).

Francisco Torres, a former regular on the Kentucky circuit, will be in from Gulfstream to ride Admiral Kitten, who was assigned post 5.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

With 11 others in the Battaglia, surely there are other horsemen considering the same sort of strategy Ramsey has in mind.

Among the handful of other logical threats are For Greater Glory (post 6, Marcellino Pedroza), a last-out maiden winner at Oaklawn Park for Steve Hobby; General Election (post 7, Albin Jimenez), in from Fair Grounds for WinStar Farm and Kellyn Gorder; and Bye Bye Bernie (post 9, Rodney Prescott), second in the 96 Rock Stakes at Turfway four weeks ago for Kelly Breen.

Also, Star Contender (post 10, Norberto Arroyo Jr.), from the prodigious Mark Casse stable in southern Florida; Avare (post 11, Shane Sellers), a minor stakes winner shipping in from Southern California for Doug O’Neill; and Giant Finish (post 12, Gabriel Saez), New York-bred and -based with Tony Dutrow.

The Battaglia is named for the late, longtime general manager whose son, Mike, remains the race-caller at his hometown track. John Battaglia died in 1981.

First post Saturday is 1:10 p.m. Eastern, with the feature set for 5:11. TVG will provide coverage.

◗ Louisville native and resident Dale Romans was recently honored by the Kentucky House of Representatives with a lengthy citation that lauded him for “a phenomenal career, spanning an incredible twenty-seven years and counting.”

The unusual honor apparently was spurred on by Romans being voted the 2012 Eclipse Award winner for top trainer.

◗ Veteran agent Steve Elzey has begun booking mounts for jockey Tommy Pompell, who, entering this weekend’s action, was well down in the winter-spring-meet standings with 9 wins from 103 mounts. Into Friday’s action, Arroyo led all jockeys with 33 wins.