Charming Kitten has been competitive in a slew of graded stakes since
the summer of his 2-year-old season, but has yet to make it to the
winner’s circle. Gulfstream Park leading trainer Todd Pletcher is
looking to end that streak on Saturday in the $150,000 Pan American (G2)
for older grass horses.The 1 ½-mile Pan American is one of three graded
stakes for turf elders on the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby
(G1) undercard, joined by the $150,000 Orchid (G3) for fillies and
mares, also at 12 furlongs, and the $100,000 Appleton (G3) at one mile.
Charming Kitten was last seen running sixth, beaten just 4 ½ lengths, in
the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) on Feb. 9 in his second start of
2014. Thirteen of his 15 lifetime starts have come in stakes, 10 of
them graded. He has been second or third in half of those graded stakes
Photo: Four Footed Fotos
“He’s always been a consistent horse that runs well, shows up and
runs hard every time,” said Pletcher, who is on his way to an
unprecedented 11th consecutive Champions meet training crown. “We’re
going to take a chance to see if maybe this is the niche he’s been
Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Charming Kitten has two wins and two
seconds in five lifetime starts at Gulfstream, including an 8 ½-furlong
allowance victory on Jan. 11 in his 4-year-old debut. “He’s here and
he’s doing well, and it seemed like good timing,” Pletcher said. “He’s
training well and he’s had some success at a mile and an eighth to a
mile and a quarter.
We feel like it’s something we haven’t tried before, and we’ll be
interested to see how he handles a little bit more of a stretchout.”
Twilight Eclipse set a world record with his victory in last year’s
Pan American, and trainer Tom Albertrani has another contender this year
in Joha, winner of the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at 2. The
4-year-old Johar colt was beaten only four lengths while finishing sixth
in the Canadian Turf (G3) at Gulfstream on Feb. 22 after having to
steady early.“I was pleased with his first race off the layoff,”
Albertrani said. “He actually got off a little slow and didn’t show as
much speed as he did in his previous races. The race did him a lot of
good. He came out of the race sharp and he’s doing well. We’ve been
wanting to stretch this horse out to a mile and a half for a while. It
looks like he’ll really appreciate the longer distances.”
Admiral Kitten finished second six times in eight starts in 2013, all
in graded stakes, picking up his only win in the 1 ¼-mile Secretariat
(G1) at Arlington Park in mid-August. Beaten favorite in both the
Jamaica (G1) and Hollywood Derby (G1) to end the year, he began 2014
with a rallying neck victory in the John B. Connally (G3) at Sam Houston
on Jan. 25. “I thought he ran good. With the exception of one race in
his career, he’s been 1-2 in every start,” trainer Mike Maker said.
“It’s just his talent. We’re here, and I’ve been anxious to stretch him
out to a mile and a half anyway. He’s a Grade 1 winner at a mile and a
quarter, and he hasn’t had a chance at a mile and a half yet so I’m
excited to see what happens.”
Third in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) was Amira’s Prince, a
multiple Grade 2 winner who comes back in the Pan American for Hall of
Fame trainer Bill Mott. Amira’s Prince won his only previous try at 1 ½
miles, an optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 19, 2013.
Mott will also send out Slumber, third in the Mac Diarmida (G2) on Feb.
15, and Grade 2 winner Newsdad, third in the 2013 Pan American.
Also entered are 2012 California Derby winner Russian Greek; 2011
Palm Beach (G3) winner Joes Blazing Aaron; Ocean Seven, winless in seven
starts since an allowance win at Lone Star Park last July; and graded
stakes-placed Suntracer and Vertiformer.