Charming Kitten Looks to Break Through in $150,000 Pan American (G2)
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Charming Kitten has been competitive in a slew of graded stakes since the summer of his 2-year-old season, but has yet to make it to the winner’s circle. Gulfstream Park leading trainer Todd Pletcher is looking to end that streak on Saturday in the $150,000 Pan American (G2) for older grass horses.The 1 ½-mile Pan American is one of three graded stakes for turf elders on the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) undercard, joined by the $150,000 Orchid (G3) for fillies and mares, also at 12 furlongs, and the $100,000 Appleton (G3) at one mile. Charming Kitten was last seen running sixth, beaten just 4 ½ lengths, in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) on Feb. 9 in his second start of 2014. Thirteen of his 15 lifetime starts have come in stakes, 10 of them graded. He has been second or third in half of those graded stakes attempts.
“He’s always been a consistent horse that runs well, shows up and runs hard every time,” said Pletcher, who is on his way to an unprecedented 11th consecutive Champions meet training crown. “We’re going to take a chance to see if maybe this is the niche he’s been looking for.”
Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Charming Kitten has two wins and two seconds in five lifetime starts at Gulfstream, including an 8 ½-furlong allowance victory on Jan. 11 in his 4-year-old debut. “He’s here and he’s doing well, and it seemed like good timing,” Pletcher said. “He’s training well and he’s had some success at a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter.
We feel like it’s something we haven’t tried before, and we’ll be interested to see how he handles a little bit more of a stretchout.”
Twilight Eclipse set a world record with his victory in last year’s Pan American, and trainer Tom Albertrani has another contender this year in Joha, winner of the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at 2. The 4-year-old Johar colt was beaten only four lengths while finishing sixth in the Canadian Turf (G3) at Gulfstream on Feb. 22 after having to steady early.“I was pleased with his first race off the layoff,” Albertrani said. “He actually got off a little slow and didn’t show as much speed as he did in his previous races. The race did him a lot of good. He came out of the race sharp and he’s doing well. We’ve been wanting to stretch this horse out to a mile and a half for a while. It looks like he’ll really appreciate the longer distances.”
Admiral Kitten finished second six times in eight starts in 2013, all in graded stakes, picking up his only win in the 1 ¼-mile Secretariat (G1) at Arlington Park in mid-August. Beaten favorite in both the Jamaica (G1) and Hollywood Derby (G1) to end the year, he began 2014 with a rallying neck victory in the John B. Connally (G3) at Sam Houston on Jan. 25. “I thought he ran good. With the exception of one race in his career, he’s been 1-2 in every start,” trainer Mike Maker said. “It’s just his talent. We’re here, and I’ve been anxious to stretch him out to a mile and a half anyway. He’s a Grade 1 winner at a mile and a quarter, and he hasn’t had a chance at a mile and a half yet so I’m excited to see what happens.”
Third in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) was Amira’s Prince, a multiple Grade 2 winner who comes back in the Pan American for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Amira’s Prince won his only previous try at 1 ½ miles, an optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 19, 2013. Mott will also send out Slumber, third in the Mac Diarmida (G2) on Feb. 15, and Grade 2 winner Newsdad, third in the 2013 Pan American.
Also entered are 2012 California Derby winner Russian Greek; 2011 Palm Beach (G3) winner Joes Blazing Aaron; Ocean Seven, winless in seven starts since an allowance win at Lone Star Park last July; and graded stakes-placed Suntracer and Vertiformer.
Anjaz Tries Again in Orchid
Godolphin Racing’s Anjaz is entered to make her first start since last August in the Orchid. Trained by Albertrani, the 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry was scratched after acting up in the starting gate prior to the Very One (G3) at Gulfstream on Feb. 15.
Prior to that, she was entered in the Glens Falls (G3) at Saratoga Race Course but withdrawn when rain forced the race off the grass. She bruised her foot and missed a scheduled start at Belmont Park in the fall, and then missed the La Prevoyante (G3) at Calder when the Dec. 28 race was canceled.
In her most recent start, Anjaz was second in the Waya Stakes at Saratoga on August 5, 2013.
“It’s been a bit of an unlucky break for her the last few months. Hopefully, we can get her into a race and see where she’s going to be competitive,” Albertrani said. “We did everything we could before her last race. We did some gate schooling with her, and we did a lot more work this time around. She’s been great in the morning; it just depends on what her attitude is going to be in the afternoon. She’s been doing really well; you’ve just got to hope that she behaves herself. I think that if she breaks out running, she’ll give a good account of herself.”
Pletcher will counter with Viva Rafaela in the Orchid. The Brazilian-bred mare has made five starts since coming to the U.S. including the last three at Gulfstream, where she won a optional claiming allowance in November and was third by 1 ¼ lengths in the Very One after setting the early pace.
“She has progressed very well,” Pletcher said. “The Very One was the first time for us to go a mile and three-eighths and it seemed llike she handled that well. We’ve kind of been pointing for this since then. She’s coming up to it in good order, and we’re hoping that she can improve a little bit off her last effort. In these types of races, depending on the pace scenario she is going to be forwardly placed.”
Rounding out the Orchid field are Very One runner-up Aigue Marine, Antonia Autumn, Lake Placid (G2) winner Caroline Thomas, Clearbrook, Hunter Forward, Very One winner Inimitable Romanee and Stick to Your Guns.
Mr. Online Returns in Appleton
Five weeks after having his three-race win streak snapped in the Canadian Turf, Mr. Online returns to make his fourth start at the Champions meet in the one-mile Appleton.
Trained by Michael Pino for owner Tim O’Donohue, Mr. Online set the pace in the Canadian Turf only to be caught in deep stretch and come up a neck short at the wire to Reload. Runner-up to Phil’s Dream in the Nearctic (G1) at Woodbine last fall, he won the El Prado by a head on Dec. 28 and a starter optional claimer by 2 ¼ lengths on Jan. 24 at Gulfstream.
Salto finished third, 1 ¾ lengths behind Mr. Online in the Canadian Turf, his second straight graded stakes start. Also trained by Pletcher, the 6-year-old son of Pivotal was second in the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) on Feb. 1 and runner-up to Mr. Online in the El Prado after a neck victory in a 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream allowance in October.
“He ran very well last time and he’s run well at Gulfstream before, so we’re going to give it a shot,” Pletcher said. “I thought he ran great last time. He had a beautiful trip and he kicked hard; it just seemed at that particular time of the meet, speed was holding up really well on the turf and he just couldn’t quite reel in a couple of those horses up ahead of him. He certainly was finishing very well.”
Also entered in the Appleton field are Cozzetti, Kharafa, Midnight Cello, Five Iron, Fredericksburg, Grand Tito, Hey Leroy and Tetradrachm. Catron and Csaba are entered for main track only.