Never tell Ken Ramsey there are odds one of his own can't beat.
In addition to Ramsey and his wife, Sarah, being the dominant owners in Thoroughbred racing over the past year, the native of Artemus is — to put it mildly — an aggressive participant in the handicapping side of the game.
The positive indicators in favor of Bobby's Kitten were enough for oddsmaker Mike Battaglia to deem Ramsey's homebred the 3-1 morning-line favorite for Keeneland's signature Kentucky Derby prep, the Grade I, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday.
Though 11 years have passed since a horse who went off as the Blue Grass favorite actually won the race, Ramsey welcomes the chance for his colors to be the ones to put that trend to bed.
"I think it's an honor. I think it's a reflection of where he was last year and what he did," Ramsey said of Bobby's Kitten's favoritism.
Fresh off a win in a 1-mile allowance race on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs, Bobby's Kitten will make his first start over a synthetic track when he faces the likes of fellow graded stakes winners Medal Count, Gala Award, and Vinceremos in the Blue Grass.
Keeneland does not offer many prizes that the Ramseys haven't claimed but the 11⁄8-mile Blue Grass has somehow eluded the 13-time meet leaders.
None in the full field of 14 horses entered owns a slam-dunk edge in terms of form. However, Bobby's Kitten, has flaunted enough raw brilliance in his five-race career that Ken Ramsey feels justified in naming the colt after the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel.
When Ramsey and trainer Chad Brown, a protege of Frankel, were debating which 2-year-old was going to carry the legendary conditioner's moniker, they took the two horses under consideration and worked them 5 furlongs in company.
The bay son of Kitten's Joy who ultimately prevailed finished about 3 lengths in front of his workmate that day. With three wins including a triumph in the Grade III Pilgrim Stakes on the Belmont Park turf last October, Bobby's Kitten has remained atop Ken Ramsey's list of his sophomore runners.
That is no small feat considering the Ramseys have two other likely Kentucky Derby starters in Grade II Louisiana Derby winner Vicar's in Trouble and Grade III Spiral Stakes champion We Miss Artie.
"I really think he's probably better than (champion and Ramsey's homebred stallion) Kitten's Joy was at this stage of his career," Ramsey said of Bobby's Kitten. "This horse has shown a whole lot and if he can rate a little bit, the distance will not be a factor. Everyone will wonder if he'll like the dirt, won't like the dirt (in the Kentucky Derby) but ... we have a dirt horse in Vicar's in Trouble, a turf horse in Bobby and a synthetic horse with We Miss Artie. Whether the track is sloppy or good or whatever, maybe one of them will like it."
Unlike many offspring of Kitten's Joy, Bobby's Kitten has been primarily a front-runner — a tactic that burned him in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf when he got rank and faded to third after whipping off fractions of :22.27 and :45.70.
Despite Ramsey's heated proclamation in that race's aftermath that jockey Javier Castellano "would never ride that one again," the Eclipse Award-winning pilot of 2013 has kept the mount and been key in helping the colt learn to harness his early speed.
"Javier had come out and worked him for us at Palm Meadows before (his season debut) and we've been working on a couple things to get him settled," Brown said. "We worked him behind horses at Palm Meadows this winter and he switched off nicely. We've done all the preparation we can to have that horse relax and obey the rider. I don't even think the horse needs to be on the lead in the Blue Grass."
Bobby's Kitten drew a fortuitous post No. 5 for the Blue Grass, leaving Castellano the option to take back and try and keep his mount covered up early.
Pace will also be an intangible for morning-line second choice Medal Count, who is wheeling back on a week's rest after rallying to win the Grade III Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland last Friday.
Trainer Dale Romans has been touting Medal Count since the day he arrived in his barn and said his Transylvania victory was the first time the son of Dynaformer put everything together in the afternoon.
"I think this horse deserves to run with the best 3-year-olds in America," Romans said. "I've been on his bandwagon ever since he came to the barn. He's a big pretty Dynaformer that moves like a cat and I just didn't want him to miss the opportunity to dance the big dances."
5:45 p.m. Saturday |TV:
Fox Sports 1 |Purse:
1 1/8 miles |Weight:
123 lbs.PP Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 Asserting Bear Baker Wilson 15-1 2 ExtrasexyhipsterTrombetta Pimental 15-1 3 Pablo Del MonteWard Espinoza 12-1 4 Harry's HolidayMaker Napravnik 10-1 5 Bobby's KittenBrown Castellano 3-1 6 Coltimus PrimeNixon Garcia 20-1 7 Casiguapo MoralesMaragh 30-1 8 Dance With Fate Eurton Nakatani 12-1 9 Big BazingaVassilieva Hernandez Jr. 20-1 10 So Lonesome Bush Rocco Jr.50-1 11 Coastline Casse Elliott8-1 12 Vinceremos Pletcher Prado8-1 13 Medal Count Romans Albarado9-2 14Gala Award Pletcher Velazquez5-1 Divine Oath-x Pletcher Leparoux12-1x-also eligible