Bobby’s Kitten strolls home at Cork in first start for Weld
Although 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) star Bobby’s Kitten was given an entry in the Cork Stakes on Easter Monday, I half-thought that he might end up scratching from this debut for Dermot Weld. The ground was desperate, not surprising at this early stage of the Irish Flat season, and there’s plenty of time to get in a couple of preps before Royal Ascot. No rush to get him started, right?
But Bobby’s Kitten ran after all, and now it’s easy to see why. Not inconvenienced by the heavy going, the Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred simply powered away by 8 1/2 lengths. According to irishracing.com, his final time of 1:18.54 was a little faster (.29, to be exact) than the course average for six furlongs on this type of ground.
Although his leading rival, multiple Group 1-winning globetrotter Gordon Lord Byron, was withdrawn, Bobby’s Kitten was facing a few veterans who have proven themselves in this race. Reigning titleholder Great Minds, 2013 winner Bold Thady Quill, and 2014 victor An Saighdiur – who ran one, two, three in the 2015 edition – were all back again. Add in Jim Bolger’s Flight Risk, and you’ve got a decent field for this level.
Hence Bobby’s Kitten was only the third choice at 5-1, with favoritism going to Great Minds at 5-4 and Flight Risk off at 7-2. Flight Risk wound up second over An Saighdiur, and there were gaps back to Bold Thady Quill, the subpar Great Minds, and 12-1 outsider Corail.
"Obviously his form spoke for itself,” winning rider Pat Smullen told irishracing.com, “but it was hard to be confident with the ground the way it is. He's a free going sort who does his work on his own.
"I didn't know if he'd handle it. His ability got him out of trouble rather than going on it and in the last furlong he was lying up on the fence looking for a bit of help.
"He has enough ability for me and I was very impressed with him – he got the six (furlongs) well and while five is a bit short at the stage, he could go up another furlong.
"He'll be there at the highest level over six furlongs and all those big races are open to him."
Might Weld have tamed Bobby’s Kitten’s headstrong nature, or did the ground itself keep him from overracing early? It will be fascinating to see what happens back on a quicker surface. If he really is a kinder, gentler kitten, there’s no reason he can’t try a mile again.
At any rate, the 5-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy will be a major player in the big European sprints ahead of his return to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Fourth in his title defense at Keeneland when last seen in October, he had been unplaced in his two prior starts in a limited 2015 campaign for original trainer Chad Brown.
Named in honor of the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, Bobby’s Kitten has flashed serious talent from the beginning. He demolished the 2013 Pilgrim (G3) before setting too fierce a pace in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), where he was caught late in third. At three, he added the Penn Mile, but disappointments over longer, and a third in the 2014 Woodbine Mile (G1), prompted the smart call to shorten him up for the BC Turf Sprint.
Photo courtesy Breeders' Cup Ltd.