SWORD DANCER INVITATIONAL | PURSE: $600,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 1/2 MILES (INNER TURF)
Big Blue Kitten, given a patient ride by Joe Bravo, burst through an opening at mid-stretch and swept past Twilight Eclipse late to post a one-length win in the $600,000 Sword Dancer Stakes Aug. 17 at Saratoga Race Course.
The 5-year-old Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred was coming off a victory in the United Nations Stakes July 6, giving the son of Kitten's Joy back-to-back victories in two of the nation's major turf races for trainer Chad Brown.
Twilight Eclipse was second with French invader Nutello third in his North American debut.
Big Blue Kitten surpassed $1 million in career earnings with the victory, but the good news was just beginning for the Ramseys. Moments later, they captured the Secretariat Stakes with Admiral Kitten at Arlington Park.
"To get back-to-back Grade Ones with Kitten's Joys, the Sword Dancer and the Secretariat -- that's too much," said Ken Ramsey from the metropolitan Chicago track.
Second choice Big Blue Kitten trailed the field of 12 after a half mile as his entry mate Stormy Lord took the early lead an opened up a two-length advantage over Tahoe Lake and Nutello. Stormy Lord stepped an opening half in :49.80 and a mile in 1:39.241 but the solid pace took its toll as stalking 40-1 shot London Lane took a brief lead on the outside at the quarter pole.
London Lane was under pressure in upper stretch as Twilight Eclipse, who had saved ground under Javier Castellano to the second turn, battled Nutello and Jose Lezcano on his inside for the lead. Twilight Eclipse had a half-length edge at the furlong mark. But Big Blue Kitten, eased off the hedge rounding the turn, waited for room between rivals and closed powerfully to hit the front past the sixteenth pole under right-handed urging from Bravo. Quickly in command approaching the wire, Big Blue Kitten eased up in the final strides.
Brown credited Bravo for the victory.
"He has so much confidence in this horse since the first time he rode him" in the Monmouth Stakes, Brown said. "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.
"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 [from the inside],' and he did."
"At the top of the lane, he had them horses come over on him a little bit," Bravo said. "All I had to do was swing him out and get him clear, and he did the rest. [Brown] did all the hard work. He just gave me the confidence in the horse.
"The happiest I was was turning for home. I'm looking at each rider and they're riding their horses, and I hadn't even asked the Kitten yet."
Twilight Eclipse was second by 1 ¾ lengths over Nutello, with Tannery just a head back in fourth. Al Khali, London Lane, Star Channel, 19-10 favorite Boisterous, Exclusive Strike, Tahoe Lake, and Stormy Lord followed. Optimizer was eased on the backstretch but left the course walking.
Phipps Stable's Boisterous, who defeated Big Blue Kitten in the Monmouth Stakes June 9 and was coming off a 2 ¼-length score in the Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park, was in a good stalking position on the outside rounding the far turn but dropped back in the drive.
"I thought [Boisterous] was in perfect position the whole way," said trainer Shug McGaughey. "He made a little run coming towards the quarter pole, but he just didn't finish. He had been doing good. I don't know what happened."
Big Blue Kitten, out of the Unaccounted For mare Spent Gold, registered his fourth win in six starts this year while boosting his overall mark to 10-2-4 in 17 outings. He has banked $1,058,530 after collecting $360,000 for the Sword Dancer triumph.
He won the United Nations by 1 ¼ lengths at Monmouth Park, coming from well back that day as well. The bay horse captured the 2011 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga in his only prior start at Saratoga.
Under co-high weight of 123 pounds, Big Blue Kitten paid $7.90, $4.30, and $3.50. Twilight Eclipse returned $4.70 and $4.10, completing a $36.20 exacta. Nutello paid $6.40 to show.
Teaks North scratched.