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The following post was published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

With his victory in Saturday’s Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, Derby Kitten emphasized the point that his sire, the El Prado stallion Kitten’s Joy, is one of the more underrated sires in the Bluegrass. On the same Keeneland card, Kitten’s Joy had the winner of the listed Giant’s Causeway Stakes (Holiday for Kitten) and the second-place finisher in the G3 Ben Ali Stakes (Dean’s Kitten).

The Eclipse Award winner as champion turf horse in 2004, Kitten’s Joy won nine of 14 starts, including seven stakes. His most important victories came in the G1 Turf Classic at Belmont and the Secretariat at Arlington. The winner of slightly more than $2 million, Kitten’s Joy went to stud at the Ramsey Farm of owners and breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

In electing to stand a stallion, Ken Ramsey said that “I had a big decision to make. I wanted to keep only one stallion. The Japanese wanted to buy Kitten’s Joy to take to Japan, and they also wanted to buy Roses in May. I did the pedigree research and decided that, of the two, Kitten’s Joy had the best chance to become a leading sire. The first five stallions in his male line were all champions, and we decided that he had all the genetics required to be a leading sire.”

Furthermore, the Japanese offered $8 million for Roses in May, the 2005 Dubai World Cup winner, giving Ramsey a lot of operating capital for his breeding and racing operation. “So the idea was to sell one, keep the other, and use the money to support the stallion with more broodmares,” he said.

The decision to sell Roses in May simplified Ramsey’s choices as an owner, but it did not make standing the horse any easier. “The only problem,” he said, “was what to do with Kitten’s Joy [to attract mares] because breeders in the U.S. want to breed to speed. He was a long-distance turf horse who got better as he got older, but I thought he might produce some speed and some dirt horses.”

The proposition was not an easy one, but Ramsey rose to the challenge and put money into making Kitten’s Joy a success as a sire. He did not get much outside help early on. Ramsey said, “In his first book, we got 16 outside mares, I believe, and we bought some mares, claimed some more, and used a lot of the money we got from Roses in May to buy up a broodmare band that we could breed to Kitten’s Joy. We currently have 128.”

With the support of home mares, Kitten’s Joy has been a noticeable success, although Ramsey admitted that he took a wrong turn here and there. He said, “First year with his stock, I made a mistake, trying to get winners from Kitten’s Joy going four and a half and five furlongs at Keeneland and Churchill Downs as early 2-year-olds. Ended up breaking a bunch down. This time, we got them ready on the farm in Kentucky, and it was a difficult winter. So they weren’t fit and ready to race till late in the year, but they are coming on now.”

Those later-maturing 3-year-olds that have been handled more judiciously include Lexington winner Derby Kitten.

The results on the racetrack have helped attract more mares to Kitten’s Joy. “We got 45 outside mares to him last year from 178 mares bred,” Ramsey said. “He’ll get over 100 mares this year at $25,000, with many of those still coming from our broodmare band. This year, we are going to be downsizing our broodmare band and racing stable. We will be shipping around and selling them in various broodmare sales across the country and putting them in other breeders’ hands” as he works to make the stallion as successful as possible for the future.

Stallion success is not new to this male line, descending from the great Northern Dancer through one of his most famous sons, Sadler’s Wells.

El Prado was the most accomplished stallion son of the great sire Sadler’s Wells before the latter-day successes of Galileo and Montjeu in Europe. El Prado was such a consistent sire of quality in the U.S. that good sons by him should not be a surprise, and Kitten’s Joy would rank first or second with the well-respected Medaglia d’Oro as the best racing son of their sire. Now they are the best stallions by him, too.

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