ELMONT, N.Y. -- Camelot Kitten made it 2 for 2 since the addition of blinkers, working out a terrific trip under Irad Ortiz Jr. and holding off a wide-rallying Highland Sky to win Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Pennine Ridge Stakes by a neck at Belmont Park.
Highland Sky, who basically ran 1-1/4 miles in the 1-1/8-mile turf race under Luis Saez, got second by a nose over Call Provision, who got third by a neck over Toughest 'Ombre.
Camelot Kitten was the 9-5 favorite in the Pennine Ridge, one month after winning the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs as an 18-1 longshot. Both victories have come since trainer Chad Brown equipped Camelot Kitten with blinkers.
"This is a horse we always felt had a lot of talent," said Brown, who trains Camelot Kitten for owners/breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey. "He always trained really well, lacked some focus as a 2-year-old. After a great debut he lost his way a little bit last fall.
"The addition of blinkers and some more experience and a couple of great trips on the fence by Irad, he's now a multiple graded stakes winner and headed to the big race," Brown added.
Brown was referring to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Belmont Derby on July 9.
In the Pennine Ridge, Camelot Kitten raced in fifth position along the inside while Toughest 'Ombre, a 101-1 longshot, ran off and set an uncontested pace under Dylan Davis. The fractions will be officially recorded as 23.02 seconds for the quarter-mile, 47.30 for the half and 1:13.10 for six furlongs. The race was hand-timed because there was an issue with the Teletimer for this race.
Ortiz made a quick move around the turn on Camelot Kitten and came into the stretch four wide and within three lengths of the lead.
Toughest 'Ombre dug in while being challenged by Hammers Vision, and Camelot Kitten gradually got to that pair before taking the lead inside the sixteenth pole. Call Provision and Highland Sky, who came off the turn six and seven wide, respectively, also came running but couldn't get to Camelot Kitten. Highland Sky won the bob for second over Call Provision.
It was a neck back to Toughest 'Ombre, who was followed by Hammers Vision, Dressed in Hermes, Converge, Azar, Kismet's Heels, and Noble Quality.
Camelot Kitten, a full brother to Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Bobby's Kitten, covered the 1-1/8 miles in a hand-timed 1:49.25. He returned $5.80 as the favorite.
"He really improved with the blinkers," Ortiz said. "He's better covered up, but when got in the clear he gave me a good kick."
When Camelot Kitten runs in the Belmont Derby he again will see Highland Sky, who was last after a half-mile and forced to rally widest of all under Luis Saez.
"You cannot not be satisfied with him. He ran a hell of a race," trainer Barclay Tagg said. "I think a mile and a quarter will be even better for him. He's just starting to really develop now and get stronger, which is what 3-year-olds do at this time of year. He came into this race really, really good and I thought he ran a winning race."
Brown was very pleased with Call Provision's third-place finish considering he was making just his second career start after defeating New York-bred maidens in his debut.
"I think Call Provision showed his inexperience today," Brown said. "He has a lot of talent to be right there - he was barely beaten in the race - but the fact he was more or less on and off the bit from the three-eighths pole home I think that's a horse that needs more experience but has a bright future."