The Dispatch Box: Charming Kitten to join Weld for tilts at Royal Ascot, Melbourne Cup
In my recap of the January 23 H. Allen Jerkens at Gulfstream Park, I floated the idea of whether Ken Ramsey would send Charming Kitten off on international travels.
Yes indeed, the Kitten’s Joy homebred is scheduled to ship to Irish maestro Dermot Weld in early March, according to a Racing Post report by Michele MacDonald. While the Dubai Gold Cup (G2) is apparently off the table, Charming Kitten will be pointed for the obvious target for a 2-mile aficionado – the November 1 Melbourne Cup (G1).
"Dermot Weld has won the Melbourne Cup twice and he knows what to do. He's been with me longer than any other trainer," Ramsey said.
Charming Kitten is "a marathoner, and the Melbourne Cup is two miles and the race that stops a nation. If we make it, I'm going down there to watch him run. I don't know if he's good enough or not, but you won't know unless you go down and try."
In the meantime, plans call for Charming Kitten to compete at Royal Ascot, where Ramsey will launch “an assault” of Kitten’s Joy progeny. Aside from the goal of winning a race at the Royal venue for its own sake, Ramsey aims to boost the international profile of his flagship stallion, Kitten’s Joy.
Spearheading that assault is Bobby’s Kitten, the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) winner, who was already transferred to Weld as the Blood-Horse first reported last fall. Whatever he achieves abroad, Bobby’s Kitten’s season-end objective is still the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.
What better way to advertise Kitten’s Joy than to have both ends of the spectrum covered, the sprinting game and the staying ranks? Not to mention the juveniles who will surely be a good part of Team Ramsey.
Also thinking ahead to Royal Ascot is someone you wouldn’t expect: Bob Baffert. The Hall of Fame trainer has never had a runner at the meeting, but the example set by Wesley Ward – and encouragement from others – have lodged the idea into his silvery head.
"I'd want a 2-year-old who looks like it could be competitive,” Baffert told Racing Post’s James Burn. "I wouldn't want to go unless I had something I thought could win, so if I find something pretty fast we could come.
"Wesley's gone over with those super-fast 2-year-olds and I saw that filly Acapulco he won with last year (in the Queen Mary [G2]) at the sales. She worked really fast so I know what you need - something precocious. Wesley's doing it the American way and they open up three, four, five lengths, so it's hard to run them down, but you need firm ground.
"I've not spoken to him about it, but I've spoken to people who have gone over and they say you have to do it.”
Smart Call to bring Breeders’ Cup within reach: After the high-class South African filly Smart Call ran rough shod over top males in last Saturday’s J&B Met (G1), her Breeders’ Cup ambitions appeared very realistic – except for the notorious quarantine issues for horses traveling from her homeland.
But her trainer Alec Laird may have hit on the solution.
“We plan to get her to England in June when she will stay at Mary Slack’s Abington Place stables in Newmarket with me as the trainer,” he told Michael Clower in a report on goldcircle.co.za.
“We haven’t yet decided whether she should have her prep races in England. France would also be a possibility although America might offer a softer option.
“On the other hand it might make more sense to travel to America with the other UK horses going for the Breeders’ Cup. But we now know that we have the best horse in South Africa to send there.”
And that’s not just trainer-speak. Smart Call now brandishes a 121 rating after her J&B Met, which stands as “officially the best performance by a filly in South Africa since the merit rating system was introduced here just before the turn of the century,” David Thiselton writes on the Gold Circle website.
That’s better than River Jetez, who went on to Group 1 placings versus males on Dubai World Cup night and in Singapore as well as in our own Beverly D. (G1), and Igugu, whose well-documented health problems unfortunately prevented her from doing herself justice on the world stage.
Since I didn’t put the video in the recap, here is Smart Call’s J&B Met:
Aerovelocity set for title defense in Japan: Hong Kong’s champion sprinter Aerovelocity, who returned from a heart irregularity to triumph in last Sunday’s Centenary Sprint Cup (G1), will follow the same itinerary as this time last year. Next up, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP): another visit to Japan’s Chukyo in search of a repeat victory in the March 27 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1).
Rich Tapestry ships to Dubai: Fellow Hong Kong speedster Rich Tapestry shipped to Dubai Tuesday, the Hong Kong Jockey Club reports, in advance of the February 11 Al Shindagha Sprint (G3). His major goal is the March 26 Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), in which he has placed for the past two seasons.
X Y Jet enters Golden Shaheen picture: X Y Jet, whose four-race winning streak features blowouts in the Mr Prospector (G3) and Sunshine Millions Sprint, has been added to the Golden Shaheen nominations. Now connections hope to get an invitation to the World Cup night festivities, according to Thoroughbred Daily News (TDN).
Gun Pit bound for Dubai, and possible sale? Hong Kong dirt specialist Gun Pit is running in Saturday’s Centenary Sprint Vase on turf because he’s got nothing in his own bailiwick at home. Turning to dirt targets abroad, he’s ticketed for Super Saturday at Meydan March 5 preparatory to World Cup night. But as far as longer-range opportunities go, he’s being dangled for private sale.
“Sadly, there is nothing left for him on the domestic programme and there is a chance that this could be his last run here,” trainer Caspar Fownes told SCMP’s Michael Cox.
“It's a pity, but we have had to look elsewhere and we hope he handles the track over there. Let's see how he goes, but if there are interested parties that want to look at buying him, I'm sure the owners will take a serious look at it.
"We do have options later in the year, the new US$1 million race in Korea in September is an option, but he'd get more opportunities elsewhere."
Fownes mentions the importance of handling Meydan’s surface because Gun Pit floundered in the December 6 Champions Cup (formerly Japan Cup Dirt) (G1) at Chukyo.
Gailo Chop opts for Dubai over Australia: French-based globetrotter Gailo Chop has set his sights on the March 26 Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), OTI Racing confirmed via Twitter.
“Following a lead up race in France, Gailo Chop plans to go to Dubai for Sheema Classic rather than Sydney Championships,” the ownership group tweeted.
Gailo Chop had also been under consideration for the April 9 Queen Elizabeth (G1) on Day 2 of the Championships at Randwick. Given the fact that he earned a Group 1 breakthrough Down Under in the October 31 Mackinnon (G1) at Flemington when last seen, and his proficiency over rain-softened ground, the Australian autumn might have been thought preferable. On the other hand, that is a much longer haul.
Meanwhile, Sydney’s Championships are expected to lure Grade 3 scorers Tosen Reve and Tosen Stardom from Japan. Tosen Reve, the 8-year-old half-brother to Buena Vista, won two straight last fall before a close sixth in the Arima Kinen (G1). Tosen Stardom will be making his second junket to Australia, after a second in the Ranvet (G1) and a fifth in the Queen Elizabeth in 2015.
Remember the name Mr Stunning: This Australian-bred 3-year-old by Exceed and Excel became a rare 1000-meter Happy Valley debut winner Wednesday night with a blistering late rally. So blistering that the SCMP’s Alan Aitken has compared it to the young Peniaphobia’s performance over the same course and about 5-furlong trip. And we know just how good Peniaphobia’s become in Hong Kong.
“Is Mr Stunning going to win Group races? If he stays sound, you bet,” Aitken concluded.
Injury reports: Ascot Gold Cup (G1) winner Trip to Paris faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a suspected tendon injury, as reported by TDN from the Racing Post. Trainer Ed Dunlop said that the stayer is being treated in Australia. A tendon issue has also prompted the retirement of 2013 Australian Oaks (G1) heroine Royal Descent.
Onetime Derby (G1) fancy Zawraq, off since fracturing a cannon bone last spring, is still having problems on the comeback trail. Unless the Weld trainee can turn the corner, he might not make it back to the races.
"He's still mending and is not as good as we'd like him to be,” Sheikh Hamdan’s Racing Manager Angus Gold told PA Sport.
"It's one of those niggling little problems that keep recurring, and three weeks ago he went lame again.
"His rehabilitation continues, but we won't be doing anything in a hurry with him.”
Dandino shopped around as stallion prospect: World traveler Dandino, who signed off with a victory in the November 7 Queen’s Cup (G3) at Flemington, has yet to begin a stud career. Darren Dance of Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock even offered the son of Dansili in an online auction, but he failed to reach his A$200,000 reserve when bidding stalled at A$180,000.
“I'd run out of options with him and was looking to flush out some new opportunities for him to get to a nice home,” Dance told Racing Post of resorting to cyberspace.
"We have had some calls from Britain, France and Australia. There was a fairly steep reserve on him. I know there are a number of syndicates trying to put something together to acquire him at the price. We will stand by and see what happens."
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