Year in Review: My Favorite Moment (That Wasn't a Race)

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 18th, 2018

For the most part, the most memorable moments in any given year of horse racing will be individual races that stand out as exciting, brilliant, or competitive. That’s understandable, right? It’s called horse racing, and the races are bound to take center stage.

Nevertheless, one of my favorite racing moments of 2018 had nothing to do with an individual race. Instead, it involved hundreds of races throughout the year—the hundreds of races in which the progeny of top stallion Kitten’s Joy participated during a banner year for the 17-year-old retired champion.

As a racehorse, Kitten’s Joy was renowned for his prowess on turf, and his best foals have almost exclusively followed suit as stars on the grass. This means that Kitten’s Joy is not the most commercially successful of stallions, since turf sires generally don’t attract big buyers in North America the way dirt sires do.

But here’s the thing—the progeny of Kitten’s Joy tend to be flat-out sound, durable, and consistent. They usually improve with age, but they can mature quickly enough to be very successful as juveniles. They can handle pretty much any turf course you throw out them, even very wet courses, and they have been successful around the globe in North America, Europe, Dubai, and even Japan. In short, they're everything racehorses are supposed to be.

Much to my delight, 2018 has been a sensational year for Kitten’s Joy. Hawkbill kicked things off on the right note by winning the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) in March, while waved the Kitten’s Joy banner in Europe, dominating such prestigious races as the Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I), Juddmonte International (Eng-I), Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I), and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) en route to winning the Cartier Award for Horse of the Year.

Things were just as bright back in North America, where Oscar Performance won the Woodbine Mile (gr. I), Chicago Style won the Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. II), and Catapult finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I). All told, Kitten’s Joy has sired 17 stakes winners, nine graded stakes winners, and three Grade 1 winners in 2018, and according to Bloodhorse.com, his progeny have earned a combined $18,474,838 through December 17th, ranking him as the leading sire in North America by a margin of nearly $650,000.

Should Kitten’s Joy maintain his lead through the end of the year, he’ll top the sire rankings for the second time (following 2013), in addition to leading all sires by turf earnings for the sixth straight year. For a stallion that—in my opinion—doesn’t get nearly the commercial respect he deserves, it’s been exciting to see Kitten’s Joy rise to the top of the sire rankings again, with his progeny conquering the highest heights in Dubai and Europe. May his success continue in 2019!