Submitted by Noel Michaels on Friday, October 11, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Keeneland: Ramseys have two Kittens in Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Ken Ramsey often talks about his bucket list and makes no bones about what’s at the top: winning the Kentucky Derby. He’s already crossed off a bunch of items further down the list, one of which was making the acquaintance of Queen Elizabeth II, a meeting that occurred a couple of summers ago when he was invited to the royal box at Royal Ascot for a spot of tea, or something of the sort.
What remains fairly high on his list is a victory in the race named in honor of the British monarch, the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, one of the most prestigious races at his hometown track, Keeneland.
And an excellent opportunity for that scenario will present itself Saturday, when the 77-year-old Ramsey and his family watch two of his homebreds, Kitten’s Dumplings and Emotional Kitten, take on seven other 3-year-old fillies in the 30th running of the $400,000 turf race.
Kitten’s Dumplings, trained by Mike Maker, and Emotional Kitten, trained by Wesley Ward, will be among a core of top wagering choices in the QE II, a 1 1/8-mile race for which the largest crowd of the 17-day fall meet can be expected amid ideal fall weather. Thousands in attendance will be attired in Alabama crimson or Kentucky blue before they head off to see their college football teams clash at nearby Commonwealth Stadium later in the evening.
Both Ramsey fillies were sired by his red-hot stallion, Kitten’s Joy, and both have the credentials to prevail. Kitten’s Dumplings, with Julien Leparoux to ride from post 7, ran several explosive races before finishing fourth as the favorite in her most recent outing, the Aug. 17 Del Mar Oaks, while Emotional Kitten (post 5, Garrett Gomez) has progressed steadily in recent months and enters off a second and a third in back-to-back Grade 1 turf races.
Kitten’s Dumplings has had four workouts at the Trackside training center since returning from Del Mar.
“We’ve been thinking about this race for a while,” Maker said. “She’s put on some weight and gotten bigger and stronger than she’s ever been. She is doing outstanding, and we look for a big performance.”
Likewise, Emotional Kitten has flourished in her training at Keeneland since returning from California, according to Ward.
“I know how much this race means to Mr. Ramsey, and we’ve really been bearing down on having the filly at a peak for this,” he said.
The Ramsey fillies figure to have the 9-5 morning-line favorite, Alterite (post 4, John Velazquez), as their chief threat. Imported this summer from France by Martin Schwartz, Alterite was impressive in winning her stateside debut last month at Belmont Park, the Grade 1 Garden City.
“She came very highly regarded and looks the part,” said trainer Chad Brown, who won the QE II last year with Dayatthespa. “My only concern with the Garden City was they had felt back home [in France] that she has a strong preference for softer turf, but it was quite firm when she won.”
The others in a terrific lineup are Sarach (post 1, Martin Garcia), a Grade 2 winner and the lone California shipper in the field; Say (post 2, James Graham), who adds blinkers and runs back after a disappointing finish against older mares here last Saturday in a rain-soaked renewal of the Grade 1 First Lady; Caroline Thomas (post 3, Rosie Napravnik), the winner of the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga two starts back via disqualification; Concise (post 6, Edgar Prado), a decent third behind Alterite in the Garden City; Leigh Court (post 8, Gary Boulanger), a classy Canadian shipper who can be expected to set the pace; and I’m Already Sexy (post 9, Florent Geroux), a dominant last-out winner of the Grade 3 Pucker Up on the Arlington Park turf.
Queen Elizabeth II actually was on hand when this race was inaugurated to great fanfare in 1984. Two prior QE II winners, Riskaverse (2002) and Bit of Whimsy (2007), have daughters in this race in Say and Caroline Thomas. No QE II winner has ever produced a QE II winner.
First post Saturday is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the QE II, the ninth of 10 races, set for 5:21. The last race goes at 5:53, and kickoff for the big game is at 7. A bus-shuttle schedule to and from the stadium is available at lextran.com.