Charming Kitten: A Long-Distance Turf Star
Charming Kitten: Stallion Overview
U.S. horse racing has long been dominated by speedy dirt racing, but turf racing is on the rise, and therefore, so is the demand for quality turf sires. Charming Kitten, a graded stakes winner on turf and a son of leading turf sire Kitten’s Joy, recently began his stud career at Breakway Farm in Indiana. He is already extremely popular with breeders in the area and hopes are high that his first few crops will transform into excellent racehorses.
Charming Kitten was foaled on April 20, 2010 out of the Wild Again mare Iteration. Iteration did not win any of her eleven starts, but her sire Wild Again was a multiple Grade 1 winner best known for capturing the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1984. In addition to producing Charming Kitten, Iteration notably foaled his full-brothers Queen’splatekitten (2008), who placed in multiple graded stakes races, and Portfolio Company (2019), who finished second in two graded stakes races and participated in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
Lady Madonna, Charming Kitten’s second dam, is a half-sister to Irish National Stud Debutante (G3) winner Saranac Lake and has produced six winners herself.
Charming Kitten is sired by world-class stallion Kitten’s Joy. Kitten’s Joy won two Grade 1 races and earned more than $2 million on the track before retiring to a lucrative stud career. He has been the leading active turf sire in the country eight years in a row and has sired 15 Grade 1 winners, including horses like Roaring Lion, Stephanie’s Kitten, Big Blue Kitten, and Oscar Performance. He even got a Grade 1 winner on dirt when his colt Tripoli won the Pacific Classic in August of 2021.
Clearly, breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey had a turf star in mind when they bred Iteration to Kitten’s Joy. Charming Kitten would not disappoint them.
Two-Year-Old Season (2012):
The Ramseys decided to keep and race Charming Kitten themselves. The dark bay colt made his debut at Saratoga for trainer Todd Pletcher. He dazzled all onlookers with a powerful win in the 1 1/16 mile turf race. The win was promising enough to prompt his connections to enter him in the With Anticipation Stakes (G2) one month later, in which he finished 3rd as the betting favorite.
Charming Kitten’s connections decided to take him to Keeneland for the Breeders Futurity (G1) in October for the colt’s first attempt on the all-weather track. Unfortunately, Charming Kitten was bumped hard as the field turned into the stretch and came up empty, finishing a well-beaten 9th.
The loss wasn’t too disappointing for his connections. They took the colt down to Gulfstream Park for the Dania Beach Stakes in December and he rebounded with a late-gaining 2nd place finish.
He ended his two-year-old season with one win and a graded stakes placing in four starts. It was an encouraging opening to Charming Kitten’s career.
Three-Year-Old Season (2013):
One month after Charming Kitten rounded out his two-year-old season, he made his three-year-old debut in the inaugural Kitten’s Joy Stakes, a 1 1/16 mile turf race at Gulfstream Park named in honor of his sire. The Ramsey’s colt went off as the betting favorite in a field of eight sophomores.
Charming Kitten put his heart and determination on display by overcoming Bambazonki bumping and leaning into him in the stretch to win by one length. The win was extra special for breeders and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, as they also bred and raced the stake’s namesake.
"(Bambazonki) kind of leaned in and gave us a little bump at the top of the stretch and kind of knocked us sideways, but we were able to regroup," trainer Todd Pletcher told BloodHorse after the race. "I think this colt is continuing to improve and is putting things together. He's figuring the game out.”
The win marked the first of many stakes wins to come for the Kitten’s Joy colt. Next on the list for Charming Kitten was the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) in March. There he met a colt named Rydilluc for the first of four times; Rydilluc won the Palm Beach Stakes by 3 ½ lengths, Charming Kitten chased him down for 2nd.
The two met again in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, a points race for the Kentucky Derby. In an exhilarating performance, Charming Kitten went wide around the turn and came soaring down the stretch towards the leaders. He drew closer and closer with every stride, crossing the wire in 3rd just a neck back from Palace Malice in second and another neck behind the winner Java’s War. Rydilluc finished fourth.
[Video: Watch Charming Kitten finish third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1)]
The 3rd place finish granted Charming Kitten enough points to participate in the 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1). At this point, Kitten’s Joy hadn’t sired many top-notch dirt performers and Charming Kitten had never run a race on the dirt, but the Ramseys still felt that their colt may have a chance in the ‘run for the roses’.
Ultimately, it was Fountain of Youth (G1) and Florida Derby (G1) winner Orb that soared home to a Kentucky Derby win in the mud; Charming Kitten came home in 9th, still finishing ahead of eventual Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice and two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Goldencents.
Charming Kitten made his return to the turf one month later for the Penn Mile Stakes, finishing a close 2nd behind Rydilluc. In July they faced each other for the fourth and final time in the Virginia Derby (G2). Charming Kitten was just narrowly defeated by War Dancer after a heart-pounding, three-way stretch battle; Rydilluc was well-beaten despite going off as the betting favorite.
"He has run really well, and we were just a little unfortunate (in the Virginia Derby) when he just missed," trainer Todd Pletcher told BloodHorse. "He consistently shows up and runs hard every time. It's just been unfortunate.”
The Virginia Derby marked the end of Charming Kitten and Rydilluc’s mini-rivalry as their careers began to take them down different paths.
"I think that horse and my horse probably know each other," Rydilluc’s trainer Gary Contessa said of their meet-ups. "They probably talk to each other going down the backside. I mean, they've run against each other so many times."
Charming Kitten continued his three-year-old season in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G3). The race was taken off the turf and run on the sloppy dirt track - Charming Kitten finished 4th. He then ran in the Hawthorne Derby (G3) in which he finished 2nd. Charming Kitten finished out the year with an off-the-board finish in the Twilight Derby (G2) at Santa Anita.
In all, the dark bay son of Kitten’s Joy won one stakes race and finished in the top three of four graded stakes races as a three-year-old, including the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
Four-Year-Old Season (2014):
Charming Kitten made his four-year-old debut a winning one in an Allowance Optional Claiming Race at Gulfstream Park. He followed that up with a 6th place finish in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1) and a 5th in the Pan American Stakes (G2). He finally rebounded in April in an Allowance Optional Claimer at Keeneland. After finishing 4th in the Dixie Stakes (G2), Charming Kitten won one of the most notable races in his career - the inaugural two-mile Belmont Gold Cup Invitational.
[Video: Watch Charming Kitten win the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational]
Charming Kitten followed that one-length victory with a 7th place finish in the United Nations Stakes (G1). He did not race again for the rest of the season. Nevertheless, he won three of six races including one at the rare U.S. distance of 2 miles.
Five-Year-Old Season (2015):
Ken and Sara Ramsey’s Kitten’s Joy colt finally made his return to the races nearly one year after the United Nations Stakes, winning an Allowance Optional Claimer at Belmont Park. He then finished 2nd in the Lure Stakes at Saratoga, followed by a 7th place finish in the Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2) at the same track.
He returned to Keeneland for the Sycamore Stakes (G3), in which he finished second to Holiday Star by just a neck. After a 6th place finish in the Red Smith Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct, Charming Kitten finally felt graded stakes glory with a dramatic win in the W. L. McKnight Handicap (G3).
Charming Kitten put on a show for everyone who tuned in to the 1 ½ mile turf race at Gulfstream Park; he put away War Dancer - who had previously defeated Charming Kitten in the Virginia Derby (G2) and finished ahead of him in the Red Smith Handicap (G3) - at the top of the stretch before an exhilarating battle ensued with Kaigun. Kaigun stayed at Charming Kitten’s throat for the length of the stretch, but Charming Kitten was too determined - he held on to win by a head.
[Video: Watch Charming Kitten’s win in the W. L. McKnight Handicap (G3)]
It was the perfect way for the Ramsey’s colt to cap off the year. He had won two of six races, one of which was his first graded stakes victory after countless close finishes.
Six-Year-Old Season (2016):
One month after that Grade 3 victory, Charming Kitten entered the starting gates for the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes. The race was Charming Kitten’s second attempt at the long two-mile distance on the turf and due to his graded win in his previous race, he was the top weight carrying 123 pounds.
The weight and distance didn’t hamper the colt’s ability one bit - he held off Xaverian to win by 1 ½ lengths. Next he was off to Europe for the Her Majesty’s Plate, in which he finished 3rd, and Irish St. Leger Trial (G3) in which he finished 5th.
Charming Kitten raced just three times as a six-year-old but certainly made an impact with those races.