Point/Counterpoint: The Fugue vs. Big Blue Kitten

October 24, 2013 06:15am
The Fugue - Big Blue Kitten P/CP
ZATT: Of the last 15 winners of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, four of them were American trained, while 11 came from Europe. With a high percentage of our best horses running on dirt, it’s no wonder that shippers from across the pond dominate our biggest turf race. We’re always in with a chance, and we did win it last year, but the facts seem to verify that when the good Euros come over, U.S. horses are up against things. Point of Entry at his best could have made me think differently, but this now looks like a pretty ordinary bunch of Americans headed to the turf. Meaning, once again, the Breeders' Cup Turf is ripe for the taking for the Europeans, and in the excellent four-year-old filly, The Fugue, they are looking good for another score on U.S. turf.

Florida Filly: With the exception of Point of Entry, last year’s American contingent in the Turf looked pretty ordinary, too, but look what happened there. Little Mike, the gelding no one believed in despite the fact that he kept defying the odds, crossed the wire first and nearly equaled the world record for a mile and a half while holding off the late charging Point of Entry in doing so. Now neither of those two are quite at last year’s level entering this year’s renewal of the race, but there is a new player in town and he has more than proved that he is ready to pick up where they left off. Falling just a nose shy of winning three Grade 1 events in a row is Big Blue Kitten, and he’s ready to roar.

ZATT: While Big Blue Kitten has allowances, and even a few claiming races littering his lifetime past performances, The Fugue has been a top class filly in Europe since day one. Lightly raced at two, she made her only start a winning one, when she came from way back to score at seven furlongs. So well liked by her connections, The Fugue made her three-year-old debut, and the second start of her life, in an English classic. Her 4th place finish, out of 17, in the English 1000 Guineas demonstrated her class, and not surprisingly her career has been stellar since then. Her big win in last year’s Group 1 Nassau Stakes, combined with her consistency, helped earn her the title of Europe’s Champion Three-year-old filly. This year she is even better. Big wins in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, and Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes point out that she is currently in the form of her life as she prepares to come to Santa Anita.

Florida Filly: Not every horse can be a top class, world beater their entire career. For some, it takes a little bit longer to figure things out and put it all together. Big Blue Kitten may have allowances and claiming races littering his past performances, but when it comes right down to it, it’s only recent form that matters. With Joe Bravo in the irons, Big Blue Kitten has rounded into career form over the summer. He won two of the U.S.’s biggest Grade 1 turf events, the United Nations and the Sword Dancer Invitational, and almost made it three in a row despite having to weave through traffic. Clearly The Fugue isn’t the only one that is in top form.
ZATT: Females are beating the males routinely all over the world, as most recently evidenced by Treve’s rousing win in the Prix del l’Arc de Triomphe. While this trend seems to be more prevalent than ever of late, females have traditionally run well in the Breeders’ Cup Turf since the beginning. Pebbles and Miss Alleged both won the race, and several others have accounted themselves well, despite only a small sample testing the boys at the mile and a half of the turf. History seems to say that if a filly is good enough to run, she generally does well. Added to that is the international record of The Fugue’s trainer, John Gosden. The number of times the British trainer has brought over a horse to run big in America is too numerous to count. He has already trained four Breeders’ Cup winners, including Raven’s Pass in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in 2008.

Florida Filly: The Fugue may have John Gosden and history in her corner, but Big Blue Kitten’s corner doesn’t look too shabby either. Trainer Chad Brown may have only struck out on his own in November 2007, but he’s been pretty successful since then, probably in large part to being an understudy to Hall of Famer Robert Frankel. He may only have two Breeders’ Cup victories, but let’s not forget that he trained last year’s Filly & Mare Turf winner Zagora, who defeated The Fugue. Most of Brown’s best runners have been turf specialists, and he knows how to win some of the biggest turf races in the nation. Big Blue Kitten also has two other really big factors going for him: his sire is Kitten’s Joy and he’s owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. This has been the year of the Kitten, and both the stallion and his owners have enjoyed great success in 2013, winning owner titles and stakes races left and right. I learned earlier in the year not to pick against the Ramseys or Kitten’s Joy, and I don’t intend to forget that lesson now.

ZATT: Let’s not forget The Fugue’s run in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf last year. Narrowly beaten while third, The Fugue ran a bang-up, but unlucky race over the Santa Anita turf course. She may have been only three, running against the older mares, but if she did not get completely shut off at a key juncture, it is no stretch to believe that she would already have one BC win to her credit. At the very least, it demonstrated that she can handle the firm turf of Santa Anita just fine. Even though, she is coming from England, while Big Blue Kitten is the American, The Fugue might actually be the one who holds the familiarity advantage over the Eastern based runner.

Florida Filly: Big Blue Kitten may have not raced at Santa Anita before, but he has more than proved that he can ship and win. In his career, he has raced at 7 different tracks and won at 6 of them. The only track he did not win at was Ascot, and that can be forgiven as he was inexplicably on the pace in the Group 1 Prince of Wales that day. This will not only be his first start at Santa Anita but also his first start in a Breeders’ Cup race. It might have taken him 3 seasons of racing to get here, but he has more than proved that he belongs in this spot.

ZATT: Big Blue Kitten has developed into a very nice turf horse, but I see him as far from a standout among the Americans. Let’s face it, if Point of the Entry had not gotten hurt in the Manhattan, he would be the American we are talking about. Big Blue Kitten has run well in all seven races this year, but with losses to Mucho Mas Macho, Boisterous, and most recently, Little Mike, I’m sure he does not exactly strike fear into the European hearts. Even in his wins, he was solid but not exactly spectacular. How on earth is that solidness going to fare when the daughter of Dansili unleashes the turn of foot that we saw last month when she crushed top males, Al Kazeem and Trading Leather in the Irish Champion?

Florida Filly: Let me remind you (again) that Little Mike didn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of the Europeans last year either, and we already know how that turned out. Point of Entry might be America’s top turf router, but the fact of the matter remains that he did end up injured. Big Blue Kitten stepped up nicely, and though he lost to Mucho Mas Macho, Boisterous, and Little Mike, he only lost by about a length to the first, 1 ¼ lengths to the second, and a nose to the third. The loss to Mucho Mas Macho came in his seasonal debut, and losing to Boisterous and Little Mike is hardly embarrassing as both are Grade 1 winners. Conversely, The Fugue may have beaten top males Al Kazeem and Trading Leather the last time she faced them, but in the two starts against them prior to that one, she finished 3rd and 7th (and last). A 1-for-3 record against the boys is hardly something to crow about, especially heading into a race of this magnitude.

ZATT: The Fugue has not only proven to have the ability to excel at shorter distances, but she has also demonstrated that she is a tigress going the 12 furlongs of the BC Turf. Last year when she came over, she was cutting back in distance from a mile and a half race down to the ten furlongs of the Filly & Mare Turf. That can be tough change, especially on the very firm turf of Santa Anita. Still, I have no doubt that she would have won the race with a clean trip, but this year she is in a better spot. The Fugue gets the twelve furlongs this time, going up in distance from her sharp 1 1/4 mile win in her last race. This is a pattern I much prefer to what she tried to do last year.

Florida Filly: A tigress at 12 furlongs you say? Just what have you been smoking? Sure, The Fugue has been competitive at 12 furlongs, but it took her 4 tries at the distance to finally win going that long. All of her attempts at the distance have been against fillies and mares; never has she tried to race that far against the boys. Leaves a little something to be desired, if you ask me. On the other hand, Big Blue Kitten has raced the 12 furlong distance of the BC Turf twice and fell just a nose shy of being undefeated at the distance while weaving through traffic. I like him at this distance more than I like The Fugue.

ZATT: Much of this debate for me boils down to European runners vs. their American counterparts in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. As pointed out in my opening sentence, unless we are talking about dirt, that is a battle that the Americans seldom win. Maybe if there was a standout U.S runner, I would feel better about the home team’s chances, but Blue Big Kitten is not that. Or maybe if the Euros were sending second or third stringers, we would have more of a fighting chance, but as we know, The Fugue is anything but a second or third stringer. She is all class, and she is the one to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Florida Filly: American turf racing has really kicked into gear over the past several years, and I hardly think that American turf runners are the pushovers they once were. Little Mike and Point of Entry proved that last year by running 1-2 in this very race. Furthermore, Kitten’s Joy’s progeny have dominated U.S. turf racing this year in a way I have seldom seen one sire do. Big Blue Kitten has really blossomed, proof that sometimes all a horse needs is a little time and the right jock in the irons. Big Blue has had that this year, and I fully expect him to continue to make his presence felt in the top tier of American turf racing. You may consider The Fugue the “one to beat,” but I feel that Big Blue Kitten has her number. While she finds trouble down on the inside again, Big Blue will be waltzing home a winner.


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Older Comments about Point/Counterpoint: The Fugue vs. Big Blue Kitten...

I like POE, but am very unhappy about there not being a race before the BC. I am surprised at how he has been handled by Shug, if he is indeed calling the shots, of which I have some doubts. I believe he would do better with a prep after the injury.
macer, as far as I know, Point of Entry will be running. he is a high quality horse, but people have questions considering that it will be his first start after a long injury layoff.
Little Mike is rounding into top form just at the right time, I won't leave him out of my trifecta
is POE not running? POE seems better than BBK. 5 G1 wins to 2. The Fugue has 3 G1 vs tougher but smallish fields. If POE not healthy, I like Fugue and Real Solution who has upside.
I love Real Solution, Rita, and I hope to see him do well here. But his stablemate BBK and The Fugue are my top picks going into the race this year.
Great article! I believe that the Fugue is rested and ready to roll in the BC Turf. BBK is to be respected and surely has a big chance to win. Little Mike should be in the mix. Real Solution should not be overlooked, and could upset. My top pick is the Fugue. I will be singling her in my pick 6 wager. The other 3 I mentioned will be in my Pick 4 wager.
Haha....OOPS. Thank you Mr.Zipse. POE All the way!
Brian,i think i just pulled the same mistake as Ep.
That's a different race, EP. Marketing Mix will be in against the girls.
On this one,i will listen to our pals from across the pond.At Arlington this summer,Dank destroyed the best we have here.When they tell me that she is nowhere near The Fugue.I for one will listen to them.I still remember Apache in the Millions.
Lost in all this debate is Marketing Mix. I might get double digit odds on her BC day :)
I constantly find myself in a disturbed state of consciousness -The Fugue!
The Fugue loves the ground rattling, and she couldn't get much of a worse trip than she had last year, I think it is her race to lose
It is hard not to like the Europeans in the Turf, they have dominated the race, but I think a couple of American horses have a big chance this year. Big Blue Kitten is certainly one of the American horses with a big chance but Little Mike seems to be coming into the race in good form and his last two wins have both been at 1 1/2 miles. Big Blue Kitten, Little Mike, Indy Point and even Point of Entry all have a shot at winning but as Brian says the Fugue is the one to beat.
I have been a fan of BBK all summer and I am going to stick with him!

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Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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