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Big Blue Kitten Ices Competition in G1 Sword Dancer Invitational

By John Scheinman | 08/17/2013 08:10 PM ET
Big Blue Kitten
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

Cruising along at the back of the pack as if he had all the time in the world, Big Blue Kitten gathered momentum on the far turn and split an open seam in the stretch to blow past his rivals and win the 39th running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

Owned by breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and ridden by Joe Bravo, Big Blue Kitten scored his second straight Grade 1 victory by running the 1 ½-mile turf marathon in 2:26.46.

The $360,000 first-place purse pushed his lifetime earnings to $1,058,530.

Twilight Eclipse, who led in deep stretch, finished second, followed by Nutello, a French import. Favored Boisterous came in a non-threatening eighth.

The winner, a son of prolific turf sire Kitten’s Joy, began his career running in $35,000 maiden claiming races at Gulfstream Park and now has won four of his past five starts, including the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park, the race that set him up for the Sword Dancer.

“He’s a Breeders’ Cup-caliber horse at 1 ½ miles on firm turf at Santa Anita,” trainer Chad Brown said. “What race we use to get there, I’m not sure, but we’ll probably only run him one time until the Breeders’ Cup [Turf].”

Big Blue Kitten received a cool blue ride from Bravo. While his entry-mate Stormy Lord ran the opening half-mile in 49.80 seconds, Big Blue Kitten galloped reserved in 12th and last place, nearly eight lengths behind.

On the backstretch the second time, 1 ½-mile world record holder Twilight Eclipse sat inside in third, receiving a ground-saving trip from jockey Javier Castellano as Nutello settled down after a rank start and raced behind him. Entering the final turn, long shot London Lane moved up and took over, but quickly yielded to Twilight Eclipse, who ranged up three wide while Nutello hugged the rail.

Bravo, meantime, moved Big Blue Kitten off the rail coming around the turn and when they entered the stretch, he found an opening and burst through to overhaul Twilight Eclipse and win by a length.

Brown gave much credit to Bravo, who has now ridden the 5-year-old horse three straight times.

“He really talked me into running in the United Nations, and I was super confident bringing him up here and keeping him on this horse,” Brown said. “In the paddock, Joe felt he was the winner every step of the way. He says, ‘I just love this horse. I’ll work the trip out,’ and he did.”

Bravo said he felt enormous confidence turning for home.

“I’m looking at each rider, and they’re riding their horses, and I hadn’t even asked the Kitten yet,” he said.

Nutello was followed in fourth by Tannery. Completing the order of finish were Al Khali, who was making his fourth straight start in the Sword Dancer; London Lane, Star Channel, Boisterous, Exclusive Strike, Tahoe Lake, Stormy Lord, and Optimizer.

Big Blue Kitten, winning for the 10th time in 17 career starts, paid $7.90 for a $2 win wager.