Monday Morning Trainer: Ramsey’s Game

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The last time Kitten’s Dumplings raced on the East Coast she was more than a handful in the paddock and preliminaries for the Grade 2 Lake George Stakes in late July.

Thankfully that race fell on a Wednesday early in the Saratoga meet, when crowds are down and not too noisy, something that upsets the Kitten’s Joy filly. Trainer Mike Maker says Kitten’s Dumplings “jiggy jogs and breaks out” at times, and she did that walking from the barn area to the paddock when she raced on the Kentucky Oaks undercard and during on of Churchill Downs’ Downs After Dark cards earlier this summer.

She was a handful again Saturday at Keeneland, when a fall meet record crowd turned out on a picture-perfect fall day in the Bluegrass, but she was also back to the businesslike manner that yielded a victory in the Lake George. The win this time was of the Grade 1 variety, the first for the filly and the latest for her uber-super sire, coming in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on the turf.

The victory led owner and breeder Ken Ramsey to tell reporters after the race that he’s run out of adjectives to describe how well the stable he and wife Sarah own and operate.

Thankfully he’s got plenty of time between now and the Breeders’ Cup World Championships the first weekend of November to come up with some more material. He’s equally thankful to be bringing the almost unfathomable contingent – how’s that for an adjective Mr. Ramsey? – to North America’s most lucrative day.

Kitten’s Dumplings, who bounced back from a loss in the Del Mar Oaks that followed her quirky Lake George win, won the QE II by a neck over favored Alterite with a hard charge to the finish. Caroline Thomas was another half-length back in third, a half ahead of pacesetter Leigh Court.

Ramsey said Kitten’s Dumplings, who will take on elders in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, received permission from stewards to leave the paddock early and get away from those among the crowd of 32,717 that gathered inside and outside the paddock at Keeneland.

Kitten’s Dumplings was the second Ramsey-owned and bred filly to solidify her Breeders’ Cup status over the weekend, along with the Kitten Kaboodle, easy winner of the Jessamine Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. She won by 4 3/4 lengths to secure an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf through the “Win And You’re In” program.

Kitten Kaboodle is trained by Chad Brown, who also conditions the Ramsey’s Breeders’ Cup Turf-bound duo of Regal Solution and Big Blue Kitten.

Brown said before the weekend that it “looks like we have about five or six 2-year-olds,” for the four Breeders’ Cup juvenile races.

“And a couple other possibilities,” said Brown, who also trained QE II runner-up Alterite. “I might have a couple for the dirt races. We’ll see. So my group could be as many as nine or 10 horses.”

Watch Kitten’s Dumplings win QE II Challenge Cup.

– The Ramseys, Brown and Maker figure to be busy Breeders’ Cup weekend and John Velazquez won’t get much rest either as he looks to put a cap on a hugely memorable and successful season.

Velazquez added another notch on his Hall of Fame career Sunday when he passed Pat Day as the all-time leading rider by purse money. That’s no small feat considering Velazquez started his professional career in 1990, while Day rode from 1973 to 2005, a career of 33 years. Of course purses are quite a bit larger nowadays, but 10 years difference is 10 years difference.

Velazquez, who offers up his thoughts weekly in our Xpressbet Jockey Journals, will easily crack the $300-million plateau for his career very soon (he’s at $298,024,506 according to Equibase through Sunday) and most likely top his career-best year of $22,220,261 in 2004 by the time the Breeders’ Cup is in the books. He’s racked up $18,548,068 in purses through Sunday.


– Za Approval rewarded Christophe Clement for his patience with a victory in Saturday’s Grade 3 Knickerbocker, the third graded stakes victory of the season for the 5-year-old Ghostzapper gelding.

Clement hoped to run Za Approval in two Grade 2 stakes at Saratoga – the Fourstardave and Bernard Baruch – but scratched from both when the turf came up less than firm. Za Approval likes it firm, got lucky to get it when a predicted rainy weather system didn’t seriously materialize, and won the Knickerbocker by 1 1/4 lengths over Plainview as the favorite.

Clement said the Grade 2 Citation out at Hollywood Park in late November could be next for Za Approval.

Watch Za Approval win Knickerbocker Stakes.