Week of October 14, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

With just three weeks until the Breeders’ Cup, it was a light week of graded stakes action, but a big week for Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

Saturday’s card at Belmont Park began with a couple of huge longshot winners, 20-1 Who’s Z Daddy ($41.40) and 40-1 Sensational Slam ($81), followed by 26-1 winner Fiona’s Hero ($54) in race 6. When it came to the two Grade 3 events on the card, though, the handicappers definitely had it right. Favorite Za Approval, runner-up in both the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile and Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in his two most recent starts, had no problem dropping down in class, winning the 1 1/8 miles Grade 3 Knickerbocker Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over allowance optional claiming winner Plainview. Although he could appear in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, trainer Christophe Clement has basically ruled out that option, indicating he will either be sent to the farm for a break or perhaps run in the Grade 2 Citation Handicap at Hollywood on November 29.

Two races later, in the 1 1/16 miles Grade 3 Athenia Stakes, trainer Chad Brown sent out the favorite Samitar and second-choice Pianist, both previously undefeated over the Belmont turf. Sitting just off the front-running Assateague, Pianist made her move first, storming to the lead as they exited the final turn and cruising to a two length victory over late-closing Abaco, with Samitar another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

For Ken and Sarah Ramsey it was another memorable week, as two homebred fillies by their supersire Kitten’s Joy won prominent turf races. Last Wednesday, their juvenile filly Kitten Kaboodle broke her maiden in capturing the Grade 3 Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland, earning herself a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. It was a dominating performance for the Chad Brown trainee as she won by nearly five lengths over runner-up Zinzay, a Smart Strike filly who went to post as the 2-1 favorite. As if further proof were needed, the lesson learned here is always bet Chad Brown-trained juvenile fillies on turf. In the Juvenile Fillies Turf, he’ll also have Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes winner Testa Rossi and non-graded P.G. Johnson Stakes winner Granny Mc’s Kitten.

On Saturday, the Ramseys had two Kitten’s Joy daughters entered in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup—Kitten’s Dumplings and Emotional Kitten. The former won the Grade 2 Lake George Stakes at Saratoga in July, while the latter ran a super impressive second behind Emollient in the Grade 1 American Oaks. Still, it was French-bred Grade 1 Garden City victress Alterite that was made the 8-5 post-time favorite, most likely off her striking American debut and strong European form, most notably being a narrow runner-up in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary in May. Front-running Leigh Court ran comfortable on the lead until mid-stretch, when the closers finally caught up with her, regulating the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen winner to fourth-place. Kitten’s Dumplings won by a neck over Alterite; it was another half-length back to Grade 2 Lake Placid winner Caroline Thomas, daughter of the tremendously talented mare Bit of Whimsy who was also trained by Barclay Tagg.

Moving forward, Kitten’s Dumplings (a full sister to Granny Mc’s Kitten) will be aimed for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, while plans for Alterite have yet to be finalized. Caroline Thomas is headed to Gulfstream for the winter, while Leigh Court is pegged for a winter layoff.

The final Breeders’ Cup “Win-and-You’re-In” challenge race, the Grade 1 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine, was won in an upset by 9-1 Phil’s Dream. Mr. Online, who last-out finished a neck behind veteran Ben’s Cat in the Laurel Dash, was two lengths back in second, and three-quarters of length ahead of early speed Longhunter, winner of the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash most recently. The post-time favorite, Excaper failed to hit the board, finishing ninth in the 10-horse field.

For the Ontario-bred son of Philanthropist, it was his sixth win in eight starts this year—but his first-ever attempt at graded stakes company. However, he is not Breeders’ Cup nominated and since it would cost $200,000 to make him so, he won’t be appearing in the starting gate of the Grade 1 BC Turf Sprint.

In England, one of the world’s great classic staying races—the Cesarewitch Handicap—was contested at Newmarket this weekend. Since its inaugural running in 1839, this event has been run over a distance of 18 furlongs, or 2 1/4 miles. It’s longer than the Arc (12 furlongs) and the Melbourne Cup (16 furlongs), and draws even larger fields—this year’s race saw 33 horses go to post. The winner: a 4-year-old Manduro filly named Scatter Dice, a 66-1 longshot who was making her 16th start of 2013, and seeking her first victory since July 2012. If that weren’t a challenge enough, how about being left at the post and giving the field a 10-length advantage? Well, she came flying in the stretch to win convincingly by three lengths. Trainer Mark Johnston says she’s going to be retired at the end of the year, so what a way to go! Interestingly, she’s a direct damline descendent of the great American mare Busanda, another mare that regularly defeated males, winning both the 1951 Suburban Handicap and the 1951 and 1952 Saratoga Cup. Busanda also happens to be the dam of champion and Hall of Fame member Buckpasser.

Updates: There were several announcements throughout the day on Monday of note: The 2012 Grade 1 Blue Grass and Pacific Classic winner, Dullahan, was retired with a tendon injury, the 2012 Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap and La Canada Stakes winner, Include Me Out was retired, and sadly 2011 Phoenix Stakes winner Hoofit died due to a leg infection.

Keep up with all the racing commentary and news at Raceday 360 Wire!

Last Week’s Races

2013 Jessamine Stakes Replay
Kitten Kaboodle takes the inside route home.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Athenia Stakes Replay
Pianist gets away from the field.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Knickerbocker Stakes Replay
Za Approval gets the job done.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 QEII Challenge Cup Stake Replay
Kitten’s Dumplings gets up in time.

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Nearctic Stakes Replay
Phil’s Dream comes true!

Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup

2013 Betfred Cesarewitch Replay
Scatter Dice emerges victorious from the 32 horse field!

Video courtesy of Racingukcom

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Athenia Stakes Chart
2013 Jessamine Stakes Chart
2013 Knickerbocker Stakes Chart
2013 Nearctic Stakes Chart
2013 QE II Challenge Cup Stakes Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

See you at the track!

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Charts and PPs provided by Brisnet