Race of the Week 2017

Charming Kitten Eyes Graded Win in Pan Am

Admiral Kitten 615 X 400
Photo: Four Footed Fotos
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 attempts.

“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 looking for.”

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.                      



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