Charming Kitten the One to Beat in Palm Beach
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Kentucky homebred Charming Kitten, impressive when winning the $100,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 20, a race named for his sire, will likely be favored to add Sunday’s $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes (G3) to his growing resume in the 1 1/8 miles turf test.
Jockey John R. Velazquez will be back aboard Charming Kitten for trainer Todd Pletcher in the field of 11 3-year-olds. A Kentucky homebred, Charming Kitten finished a troubled second as the favorite in the Dania Beach Stakes over the course on Dec. 15.
In three starts last season, Charming Kitten won his debut on turf at Saratoga, finished third in the With Anticipation Stakes (G2) at the Spa and ninth in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland in early October on Polytrack, although beaten only 4 ¼ lengths for it all.
Charming Kitten is by the Ramseys’ 2004 Eclipse champion turf runner Kitten’s Joy, who won the Palm Beach early that year when his regular rider was Jerry Bailey.
When asked if a good effort in the Palm Beach could tempt Ramsey too send Charming Kitten into a major Kentucky Derby (G1) preview next, Ramsey replied, “We considered trying to go to the Derby with Kitten’s Joy. Jerry Bailey was riding him early that year and he said ‘He just doesn’t have the same kick on dirt,' and recommended keeping him on turf. It turned out to be good advice.
“The Derby is very much on by bucket list and we’ll see how he does in the race Sunday and discuss the possibilities with Todd. We’ll do what’s right for the horse.”
The Ramseys will have another runner in the Palm Beach with their homebred Amen Kitten, also a son of Kitten’s Joy. Trained by Wesley Ward, Amen’s Kitten broke his maiden last out over the course on Jan. 11 in his seventh start for a $75,000 claiming tag and no takers.
Making his stakes debut and expected to attract plenty of support in the Palm Beach will be Team Stallion Racing Stable and partner’s Rydilluc with jockey Edgar Prado on a return call for trainer Gary Contessa.
A son of Medaglia d’Oro purchased for $150,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Eastern May 2-year-old sales at Timonium, Rydilluc was very impressive winning an ‘a other than’ allowance over the course by 5 ¾ lengths under Prado on Jan. 5. He broke his maiden on turf at Aqueduct on Nov. 25 after a fifth-place main track debut sprinting at Belmont Park in mid-October.
“The Palm Beach has been the long-range plan for him for about two months,” said Contessa, who recently crossed the 2,000 career victory plateau in a race in New York. “He has trained fantastic this winter and Edgar (Prado) is very high on him. In fact he’s gotten in his car and driven up to Palm Meadows to be on him every time he’s worked.
“He trained so good on dirt before his first start I thought he’d gallop, but he never even got involved. Then we said, ‘Maybe he’s a turf horse,’ and he was very impressive winning his second start. However, we still haven’t ruled out anything and he still could be on the Derby Trail. If things go well in the Palm Beach we’ll consider the Spiral Stakes 20 days later and I wouldn’t rule out the Blue Grass as a back-up.”
The $500,000 Spiral Stakes (G3) will be run at Turfway Park going 1 1/8 miles on Sat., Mar. 23. The $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) will be run at 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland on Sat., Apr. 13.
Another highly-regarded contender in the field that may use the Palm Beach as a step to a start next in a major Derby preview is Sienna Stable’s Dewey Square with leading Gulfstream jockey Javier Castellano aboard for trainer Dale Romans, who sent out Paddy O’Prado to win the 2010 edition of the Palm Beach on the way to a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby that spring after a runner-up effort in the Blue Grass.
A Kentucky homebred by Bernardini, Dewey Square came to Gulfstream for the winter a top Derby hopeful after a three-race juvenile campaign when he won his debut by 11 lengths at Hoosier Park in September, an allowance race at Churchill Downs in late October and finished a rallying third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill in late November.
Dewey Square made his 3-year-old debut in the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) on Jan. 26 and was never a factor with suggestions after the race that he resented kickback and may not have handled the track. Romans later reiterated his faith in Dewey Square as a top prospect, but altered his schedule while indicating a good effort in the Palm Beach would likely earn him a start in the Blue Grass Stakes.
Romans also sends out Sienna Farms’ Summit County with Corey Lanerie named to ride. The homebred son of Any Given Saturday finished sixth last out behind Charming Kitten in the Kitten’s Joy after an ‘a other than’ allowance victory over the course on Dec. 19. Summit County set the pace for three-quarters in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 3 before tiring to 12th, beaten 11 lengths by the winner in the one-mile test.
Augustin Stable’s Pennsylvania homebred gelding Holiday Star appears to be hitting his best stride coming into the Palm Beach with jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. in the saddle for trainer Graham Motion. The son of Harlan’s Holiday has won his last two starts on turf since arriving in South Florida for the winter, breaking his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs in mid-December and scoring in an allowance race over the Gulfstream course on Jan. 26.
Completing the field for the Palm Beach are Christian Maingot and Jose Pinchin’s Saturday Special, Luis Saez; Donegal Racing’s Squall King, Joe Lezcano; A Blanco Holding’s Dad’z Laugh, Paco Lopez; Gilbert Campbell’s Reporting Star, Eduardo Nunez and John M.B. O’Connor’s Quinzieme Monarque, Joel Rosario.