BC Internationals: F&M Turf/Mile contender Kitcat
Chilean star Kitcat has the best chance of the South American “Win and You’re In” brigade to make an impact in her Breeders’ Cup race – although that’s relative, more of a negative statement about Corona del Inca and Ryans Charm than a ringing endorsement. But Kitcat is a potent closer who travels well through her races, enjoys a hot pace, exhibits a fearlessness in weaving on the inside or through traffic, has put up some blistering times, defeated males, and claims the advantage of a local prep.
Like Diana (G1) heroine Dacita, Kitcat is a daughter of Scat Daddy who has competed in the top races of her generation. She didn’t earn a championship, however, or win as many events as dual Chilean champion Dacita. Although the point can’t be pressed too far, they do share a certain classic score in common.
Kitcat captured her first two starts as a juvenile, including a listed stakes, before playing second fiddle to divisional champion Cimalta in three straight. But Kitcat’s progress was evident as she came ever nearer to beating the fellow Stud Vendaval colorbearer.
Beaten fair and square by Cimalta in the Premio Julio Subercaseaux Browne (G3), Kitcat surged a fraction late and just missed next time in the Premio Criadores Dorama (G2).
In their rubber match over the same metric mile in the Arturo Lyon Pena (G1), Kitcat received an arguably overconfident ride, opening the door for Cimalta to come back and mug her on the line in a brisk 1:31.61.
Those replays show Kitcat to be a spare, unfurnished type who’d strengthen over time, compared to the robust Cimalta who appeared well ahead on the developmental curve. The arc of Kitcat’s sophomore campaign would bear that out.
Still leggy in her three-year-old bow in the Premio Polla de Potrancas (G1), Kitcat traveled supremely well, took a few strides to pick up, and asserted with something to spare over stablemate Wapi and her nemesis Cimalta. If you have the extra time, note Kitcat’s pre-race swagger.
This fillies’ classic victory is her point in common with Dacita. Otherwise, Dacita compiled a deeper resume through the midpoint of their three-year-old seasons. At two, Dacita had won a couple of the races Kitcat had placed in (the Arturo Lyon Pena and the Julio Subercaseaux Browne), and after her Potrancas conquest, Dacita added the Las Oaks (G1) and finished a creditable fourth versus the boys in the El Ensayo/Chilean Derby (G1).
Kitcat, on the other hand, was well beaten in all three of her attempts in longer classics – the only times she’s been out of the top two in her career. Failing to settle early in the about 10-furlong Premio Nacional Ricardo Lyon (G1) against males, she was a non-threatening ninth. Kitcat finished better when altering course and staying on for fifth in the about 12-furlong Chilean Derby, won by stablemate Wapi. At least Kitcat had the satisfaction of turning the tables on Ricardo Lyon winner Candy Sun, who checked in seventh as the favorite. Kitcat was again no match for Wapi in the Las Oaks back at about 10 furlongs, where she had to await room momentarily but wilted in fourth.
Wapi, since honored as Chile’s champion three-year-old filly, has been purchased by Glen Hill Farm and Hill ‘n’ Dale. Glen Hill’s Craig Bernick has tweeted photos of Wapi looking fine as she soaks up the Florida sun.
In Wapi’s absence, Kitcat emerged from her shadow. She reunited with jockey Gonzalo Ulloa, who’d chosen Wapi in the Derby and Oaks. Returning stronger, and perhaps a bit more filled out, in the second half, Kitcat reeled off a four-race winning spree.
Up in time in her comeback, despite appearing to have left it late, Kitcat next rallied off a torrid pace in the Premio Geoffrey Bushell. Note her final time for the metric mile at Santiago -- 1:30.50, a record according to Turf Diario.
Kitcat encountered a slow pace in the about 1 1/8-mile Carlos Campino (G2), and as a result pulled for her head at the rear. That might have cost her earlier in the season. But now, she still mowed them down handily.
Trying about 1 1/4 miles again in the Premio Club Hipico de Santiago (G1), a new “Win and You’re In” event for 2016, Kitcat showed just how much she’d improved by defeating older males. She initially hustled to chase, then eased back as the front runner sped away far too fast, and launched her challenge in the stretch. Kitcat dug deep to knock off defending champion El Bromista, denying him the Breeders’ Cup Mile berth by a half-length in a final time of 1:56.91.
Kitcat arrived in Southern California early enough to get a local prep in the October 8 Swingtime at a mile. Racing well within herself stalking Curlin’s Fox through quick fractions, she kept on doggedly to finish a clear second.
It goes without saying that Kitcat will need to step up off this promising U.S. debut. Yet she probably has more latitude to build upon this solid, even type of effort than, say, Sobradora Inc., who may have run too well when taking her premiere in the Osunitas. The Argentinean regressed in her two subsequent outings.
Sebastian Silva, who’s overseeing Kitcat’s preparation for trainer Juan Silva, may have deliberately left a little more to work on. Indeed, Kitcat’s come right back firing in the morning. Exactly a week after the Swingtime, she was given a “breezing” designation by the usually stingy clockers for her three-furlong move in :36. She didn’t miss a beat the next week either, turning a half-mile in :47.40 October 22. She's apparently enjoying the hospitality of Neil Drysdale's barn.
Having captured a “Win and You’re In” for the Mile, Kitcat was expected to target that race. Hence the Breeders’ Cup pre-entries served up a plot twist when she was cross-entered, and listed as her first preference, the Filly & Mare Turf (G1). She’s proven over both trips, and a strong pace is on tap for both races. The Filly & Mare Turf would let her stay in her own division rather than facing males, but it’s not exactly a softer option.
The Breeders’ Cup is by far the biggest challenge of her career, and on paper, she’s got something to prove. But as a classy, genuine filly who revels in a fast pace, she’ll get her preferred scenario, and that makes her an intriguing exotics candidate at a price.
Kitcat (right) courtesy of Club Hipico de Santiago via Twitter