Kenneth & Sarah Ramsey's homebred DEAN'S KITTEN (Kitten's Joy) secured his spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) field with a convincing victory in Saturday's $500,000 Lane's End S. (G2) at Turfway Park, rallying from just off the pace to win going away by 2 1/2 lengths. Trained by Mike Maker, the chestnut colt registered his first graded stakes score when completing 1 1/8 miles over the Polytrack in 1:50 2/5 with jockey Cornelio Velasquez.
"Well, you'd have to talk to the boss but I'd have to say he'd be inclined to go," Maker said when asked about the Kentucky Derby. "I do know that Mr. Ramsey is excited, and that he's still awake (in Dubai where he watched the race)."
Runner-up in the grassy Palm Beach S. (G3) in his previous outing, Dean's Kitten traveled a little wide in the clubhouse turn and settled a few lengths behind Ranger Heartley (Lost Solder), who established early splits in :24 2/5 and :48 2/5 on a clear lead. Dean's Kitten advanced four wide into contention on the far turn, less than a length back in third as the pacesetter reached the three-quarters mark in 1:12 3/5, and powered his way to the front entering the stretch drive.
"I really like this horse," Velasquez said. "He's why I came here today. He has a lot of try. He loves Polytrack. He can run on grass, but this is his track. Mr. Maker never gave me any instructions. I just wanted to keep him off the pace. I had a ton of horse at the top of the stretch. I was very confident in him. He's a nice horse."
"We were looking for just what we got," Maker stated. "He did not get good trips at Gulfstream (this winter). That course has been favoring speed horses all meet so we pointed for this race and it paid off for us."
Northern Giant (Giant's Causeway) offered a good rally from midpack to pose a threat on the far outside as Dean's Kitten passed the eighth-pole with a one-length advantage in 1:37 4/5, but he lost ground in the final furlong while easily finishing second-best.
The winner paid $15, $6.20 and $3.40 as the 6-1 third choice, and Northern Giant returned $5.40 and $3.40 at 7-2. It was 3 1/4 lengths back to the late-running Connemara (Giant's Causeway), who never got seriously involved as the 8-5 favorite and gave back $2.10. Chief Counsel (Officer), Vow to Wager (Broken Vow), Letsgetitonmon (Maria's Mon), Outlaw Man (Forest Wildcat), Doubles Partner (Rock Hard Ten) and Ranger Heartley came next under the wire, and Kettle River (Congaree) was withdrawn.
The exotics totaled $62.40 (exacta), $186 (trifecta) and $2,239.60 (9-7-1-3 superfecta).
With the $291,000 payday, Dean's Kitten has now earned $418,495 from a 11-3-1-2 line. Winner of the grassy Vision S. last season, the Kentucky-bred concluded his juvenile campaign with a pair of sixth-place finishes in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) and Grand Canyon H. He finished a close fourth when making his sophomore debut in the Hallandale Beach and exited a fast-closing second in the aforementioned Palm Beach.
Dean's Kitten is out the winning Summer Theatre (Ide), who is also the dam of the juvenile colt Mr. Chartbuster (Castledale [Ire]) and the yearling filly Ohthejewel (Othello). His third dam is 1979 Spinster (G1) winner Safe (No Robbery).