Ramsey entry a triple threat in G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic
By Jon Forbes | 09/25/2013 05:06 PM ET
Big Blue Kitten
Since July 1, owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey have won seven graded stakes on the grass, including a pair of Grade 1s with Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution. On Saturday, Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution, who hail from the barn of Chad Brown, will attempt to give their owners another Grade 1 when they compete in the 37th running of the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park.
Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution will join Joes Blazing Aaron to form a three-horse coupled entry installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the 1 ½-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Both Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution are sons of Kitten's Joy, who won the 2004 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic for the Ramseys.
August 17 was a banner day for the Ramseys as Big Blue Kitten won the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga Race Course and Real Solution was promoted to the victory in the Grade 1 Arlington Million via disqualification at Arlington Park. In addition, the Ramseys' Admiral Kitten won Arlington's Grade 1 Secretariat.
The Ramseys have already won a graded stakes during the Belmont fall meet, having taken the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap on September 7 with Hyper.
Big Blue Kitten, a 5-year-old stretch runner, seeks his third straight Grade 1 victory. He erased a nine-length deficit to capture the Grade 1 United Nations by 1 ¼ lengths on July 6 at Monmouth Park and found himself 12th, 7 ¾ lengths behind the leader, in the Sword Dancer before surging to the front in deep stretch en route to a one-length score. Like the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, the Sword Dancer is a 1 ½-mile race.
"He's finally getting those longer distances, and I think that, in combination with physically maturing, has him in top form, as long as the turf is firm," said Brown. "He's won two Grade 1 races in a row, so he should be a major player."
Joe Bravo will ride Big Blue Kitten from post position 3.
Real Solution began his career in Italy, where he won a listed stakes in 2012 before being sent to Brown's barn during the winter. Since then, he has made a gradual ascent. He was fourth in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy in May at Belmont, third in Belmont's Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap in June, and finished second by a head after being bumped by first-place finisher The Apache in the Arlington Million. The stewards subsequently disqualified The Apache for interference.
"We've always liked this horse. He's taken a little time to really find his stride, so to speak," said Brown. "He keeps improving with every race we run him, and it seems like he's sitting on another top effort. This horse has appreciated longer time with me, and he's still a relatively young horse. He hasn't been [1 ½ miles], but with the way he was closing in the Million perhaps the distance won't bother him."
Real Solution drew post 5 and will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
The third member of the entry, Joes Blazing Aaron, was claimed by trainer Michael Maker on behalf of the Ramseys for $62,500 in his most recent start, a fourth in a 5 ½-furlong optional claimer on August 26 at Saratoga. Rajiv Maragh will ride Joes Blazing Aaron from post 8.
Joes Blazing Aaron likely will be joined up front by Little Mike, who seeks his first win since taking last year's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf, and King Kreesa, a graded stakes winner who was second, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap on August 10 at Saratoga.
Little Mike, trained by Dale Romans for Patricia Vaccarezza, has yet to finish in the top three so far this year. After finishing fourth in the United Nations, he faded to sixth in the Arlington Million in his two most recent starts.
Hall of Famer Mike Smith has the assignment aboard Little Mike, who drew post 10 and was installed at 10-1 on the morning line.
King Kreesa posted a pair of stakes wins during Belmont's spring-summer meet in gate-to-wire fashion, taking the Kingston for New York-breds by 2 ¼ lengths in June before adding a 1 ½-length victory in the Grade 3 Poker in July. He employed similar front-running tactics in the Fourstardave, resisting Wise Dan's challenge before giving way in the final sixteenth of a mile.
With other front-runners in the field, King Kreesa might have to try new tactics in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, said Jeremiah Englehart, who trains the 4-year-old gelding for Gerald and Susan Kresa.
"With Little Mike and Joes Blazing Aaron running in here, we'll probably have more of an honest pace [compared to the Fourstardave], but if we have to sit off somebody, we will," said Englehart. "We can't control what others do, and I know Ramsey wants to set it up for Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution, but that's racing."
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride King Kreesa, 12-1, once again in Saturday's race. The son of King Cugat drew post 6.
Phipps Stable's Imagining and Boisterous (4-1) are coupled in the betting, but Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said he is likely to scratch Boisterous, who could make his next start in either the Grade 3 Knickerbocker on October 12 at Belmont or the Grade 2 Fayette on October 26 at Keeneland.
"I think [Imagining] is a little more suited for a mile and a half than Boisterous is," said McGaughey. "I thought it was time to step up and see [if Imagining can win a Grade 1 race]. If he were to run good, he could go to California [for the Breeders' Cup]. If not, we can go a different direction with him. I thought it was a good race to take a chance with him."
Imagining will be making his first start in a Grade 1 since finishing second in the 2011 Hollywood Derby. This year, he won an allowance in April at Keeneland, was 10th in the Grade 2 Dixie in May at Pimlico, and posted a 5 ¼-length romp in the restricted Idle Rich Stakes on August 25 at Saratoga.
"He got away in a bit of a tangle [in the Dixie], and from there it turned into a debacle," said McGaughey. "Javier [Castellano] tried to get him inside, but he couldn't. The whole thing was a mess. He came back [to Belmont] and had a hock blow up on him, so we had to back off on him and get that straightened out. That got us to the race at Saratoga, and, hopefully, that will get us here. It's a big step forward, but he could possibly be that type of horse."
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez takes over on Imagining, who drew post 2.
Nutello, a listed stakes winner in France, enters the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic off a third for trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias in the Sword Dancer, the 4-year-old's United States debut. The Wertheimer and Frere homebred will now race for trainer H. Graham Motion and receive Lasix for the first time.
"I thought he ran quite well [in the Sword Dancer], considering the circumstances," said Motion. "He pretty much had one day in Saratoga as he came out of quarantine and then ran the next day. He had to adjust to a lot, but he performed well. We've had this race in mind ever since he ran well in the Sword Dancer. The Wertheimers brought him to the United States looking to see if he could step up, and they've had expectations for him for a while. He hasn't missed a beat [since the Sword Dancer]. He's a nice horse to be around and looks well. Whether that will translate to a good performance on Saturday, I don't know, but it's exciting to be in a Grade 1 race and to have a horse for the Wertheimers."
Nutello, 8-1, will depart from the rail with Jose Lezcano in the irons.
The field also includes Slumber, who is stepping up in class off an optional claiming score on August 15, and Twilight Eclipse, second in both the Grade 1 Man o' War in July and the Sword Dancer.
The field for the Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational: