Horses

Venerable Big Blue Kitten nabs Eclipse Award for champion turf male

Big Blue Kitten worked out ahead of the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 29, 2015, in Lexington.
Big Blue Kitten worked out ahead of the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 29, 2015, in Lexington. Associated Press

The old bay horse was supposed to be a year into his second career by this point.

With multiple Grade I wins on his resume and the blood of a leading sire in his veins, Big Blue Kitten was set to be done with his racing days and enter stud for the 2015 season.

In a wonderful of case of having some nagging second thoughts, further contemplation on the part of his connections told them to scrap that plan and give the ridgling son of Kitten’s Joy another year to see what on-track accomplishments he could still pile up.

At the supposedly long-in-the-tooth age of 7, Big Blue Kitten responded by producing the best year of his life, one that has handed his Nicholasville-based owner/breeder one heck of a parting gift.

Five years into a remarkably consistent career, Big Blue Kitten can now be hailed a champion. The Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred was named champion turf male during Saturday’s 45th annual Eclipse Awards, earning 134 of the 261 first-place votes.

After conferring with trainer Chad Brown at the end of 2014, the Ramseys made the call to leave Big Blue Kitten in training in hopes the turf division would finally be his for the taking.

He opened his 2015 campaign with a win in the Grade III Fort Marcy Stakes at Belmont Park on May 2 and, from there, it was nothing but top-level battles for the veteran grass performer.

He bested stablemate Slumber and rival Twilight Eclipse in both the Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth on July 5 and the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont on Sept. 26 — the latter of which saw him establish a course record for 1 1/2 miles.

In six outings last year, Big Blue Kitten was never off the board, finishing second in the Grade I Manhattan and Grade I Arlington Million and was beaten 1 1/4 lengths while running third in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf.

“He fired every time no matter who rode him, what the surface, what the track was,” Ken Ramsey said of Big Blue Kitten. “That’s the mark of a good horse, one that is there every time. Sometimes they run a big race and next time you can’t find them or they are hot and cold and not consistent.

“He is just a good horse, that’s all there is to it.”

In 30 career starts, Big Blue Kitten has 14 wins and been worse than third just three times with earnings of $2,936,830. And he’s not done yet.

Ramsey sold Big Blue Kitten’s racing and breeding rights to Calumet Farm and the bay horse is back in training with Brown for another campaign in 2016.

“To my surprise, when I sold him I was called (by Calumet) and asked my opinion as to what I would do with him had I not sold him,” Ramsey said. “I said ‘I guess you’re asking someone with a bias, but my honest opinion is if I still owned him, the way he is going now, I would bring him back next year to try again.’”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: 859-231-1676, @horseracinghl

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