Howe Great Caps Big Week for Connections in Kitten's Joy
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Howe Great capped a big week for trainer Graham Motion Saturday while leading the way in a one-two stable finish in the $100,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes.
Motion, whose Kentucky Derby-winning Animal Kingdom was named 2011 champion 3-year-old on Monday, was on hand at Gulfstream Park to saddle Howe Great ($11.40) for a front-running 2 ½ -length triumph over favored stablemate Lucky Chappy in the 1 1/16-mile turf event for 3-year-olds.
Howe Great was sent right to the lead by Edgar Prado, as stablemate Lucky Chappy settled far off the pace under Javier Castellano. Howe Great led the seven-horse field along the backstretch without pressure until meeting a two-pronged challenge by Cozzetti and Empire Builder while approaching the far turn. The son of Hat Trick fought off his early challengers on the turn into the homestretch and sprinted away to open up a clear advantage in mid-stretch.
“I talked to Edgar before the race and we agreed that if no one else wanted the lead, we’d be happy to take it, although I don’t think he’s one dimensional,” Motion said. “I knew Lucky Chappy would be up against it as he always breaks a step slow.
As Howe Great rolled on to a convincing victory, Lucky Chappy made a late run through the stretch to catch Empire Builder by three quarters of a length for second money.
“We saw the race just like everybody else did. There was no speed on paper,” Prado said. “We went to the front, slowed it down, and the rest was history. He had plenty left.”
Howe Great, who ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.42 in his victorious stakes debut, remained undefeated in two starts on turf. Team Valor International’s Kentucky-bred colt had a win and a second on dirt at Parx last fall before winning his 2012 and turf debut at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 15.
Lucky Chappy, who captured two of three races on turf in Italy last year before concluding his 2011 campaign with a third-place finish in the Bourbon (G3) at Keeneland and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs. Team Valor International’s second-place finisher was making his 2012 debut in the Kitten’s Joy.
Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom is being pointed toward the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31 after a likely start at Gulfstream Park next month, and he may very well have company on the flight to the Middle East.
“It’s possible we’ll consider one of them to go to Dubai (for the UAE Derby),” Motion said. “We’ll also look at the Palm Beach here later in the meet (Mar. 11). We haven’t ruled out anything for either of them at this point (including dirt).”