Ramsey aiming for big weekend of 3-year-old success

Even before the calendar flipped to 2014, We Miss Artie and Bobby’s Kitten were tabbed as ones who would carry the lion’s share of the load if top-level success was to be achieved this season by sophomore runners carrying the colors of owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

While the American classics didn’t pan out as the Ramsey clan hoped for two of their better 3-year-olds, both colts have since rebounded and now enter this weekend still in position to make good on the core faith behind their connections’ initial aspirations.

On Saturday, graded stakes winner Bobby’s Kitten will try and harness his speed into the form of a Grade I performance when he faces a loaded bunch of 10 challengers in the $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational – part of a salty slate of graded stakes that make up Belmont Park’s first ever ” Stars and Stripes Day” card.

Twenty four hours later, Grade I winner We Miss Artie will go to post with the largest target on his back having been deemed the 8-to-5  morning-line favorite in a field of 15 for Woodbine’s $1 million Queen’s Plate, the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

Winner of the Grade III Pilgrim Stakes on the Belmont turf as a juvenile, Bobby’s Kitten has been called Ramsey Farm’s most talented runner by the family patriarch, but saw his Kentucky Derby hopes crash and burn when he finished 12th as the favorite in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes over the Polytrack at Keeneland in April.

We Miss Artie, hero of the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last November and winner of the Grade III Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in March, did make it into the Kentucky Derby field along with fellow Ramsey runner Vicar’s in Trouble, but never threatened as he finished tenth in the 10-furlong classic.

Since those respective disappointing outings, both colts have returned to their preferred surfaces and proceeded to notch preferred results. Bobby’s Kitten ran off to a 2 3/4-length victory in the $500,000 Penn Mile Stakes on the turf at Penn National on May 31 while We Miss Artie captured the Plate Trial over Woodbine’s Polytrack  on June 15, winning well in hand by three-quarters of a length with jockey Javier Castellano easing up toward the wire.

“I tell you what, that is the premier race in Canada,” said Ken Ramsey after We Miss Artie drew post No. 6 for the Queen’s Plate Thursday morning. “I’ve got my top hat and morning coat from Royal Ascot so if I get to lead him in, I’m going to look very formal. Javier cut it a little close in the prep, he eased up in the last 50 yards but said he won with gas in the tank. I think things are looking good, he hasn’t missed a beat. He beat roughly half the field in the Kentucky Derby so I think we’re going to show up big here.”

While Ramsey said he won’t be in attendance for Bobby’s Kitten run at Belmont, he has a good idea what he is going to witness from afar this Saturday. The homebred son of Kitten’s Joy is best when allowed to roll on the front end but trainer Chad Brown has been working to get the bay colt to relax  in the early going instead of cooking himself as he did when he finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last November.

Rather than trying to strangle the colt back and take him out of his game, Ramsey expects Castellano to try and get as kind of fractions as possible up front with Bobby’s Kitten trying the 1 1/4-miles distance for the first time in the Belmont Derby.

“I always thought this horse would be a great horse if we could get him to settle,” said Ramsey, who also has 4-year-old Charming Kitten running in the Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park Sunday. “But he’s going 1 1/4-miles for the first time up there coming out of the No. 3 hole, I think he’s probably going to be on the lead, I do. We tried to choke him down in the Blue Grass Stakes and it did not work at all. I don’t think we’ll be able to rate him, I just hope no one puts a rabbit in there to soften him up.

“This horse has a lot of energy and he likes to use it early. But I think he is probably the best Kitten’s Joy that is out of there right now.”

How We Miss Artie and Bobby’s Kitten perform this weekend will dictate how stiff their paths continue to be this summer. If Bobby’s Kitten can successfully handle the 10-furlong distance, a start in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on August 16 – a race Ramsey won last year with Admiral Kitten – would likely be on tap.

With Keeneland switching back to a dirt main track in time for its Fall meeting, the options on synthetic surfaces for We Miss Artie are limited. One spot already being discussed in the Ramsey camp is the idea of sending the dark bay son of Artie Schiller West to try older horses in the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 24.

“Oh yes, we have definitely talked about it,” Ramsey said of a potential Pacific Classic start. “This horse is unbeaten on synthetic surfaces so that would definitely be on the agenda if he stays in form and performs well.”

After winning the Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder for 2013, the Ramseys are again currently leading the nation in earnings even if they haven’t racked up meet titles with the vigor they did a year ago.

With defending Arlington Million winner Real Solution training up for a title defense in that race and fellow Grade I winner Big Blue Kitten looking to make his long-awaited seasonal bow during the Saratoga meet, the second half of 2014 could be a big one for the Ramseys – a surge the Nicholasville-based family hopes gets sparked this weekend.