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Kitten's Dumplings regains winning thread in QE II

Kitten's Dumplings continued the hot streak for the Ramseys and sire Kitten's Joy (Keeneland/Coady Photography)
Ken and Sarah Ramsey, and their star stallion Kitten's Joy, racked up yet another major prize Saturday when their homebred Kitten's Dumplings rallied smartly in the Grade 1, $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. After her three-stakes winning streak was snapped with a fourth last time in the Del Mar Oaks, the 9-2 chance got a much more favorable pace set-up this time, and capitalized with a neck decision over 8-5 favorite Alterite.

Kitten's Dumplings could now enter calculations for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. If so, she would venture to Santa Anita along with her full sister Granny Mc's Kitten, who is a candidate for the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

The early pace in the QE II figured to be generous, and so it proved. Leigh Court shot to the front, tracked by I'm Already Sexy, through splits of :23 1/5, :46 2/5 and 1:10 2/5. Sarach drafted just in behind on the fence, covered up by Say. Alterite raced within striking distance, while Kitten's Dumplings was reserved near the rear by new rider Julien Leparoux.

Turning for home, Leigh Court began to widen her advantage, and she threatened to keep going as she clocked 1:35 1/5 for the mile. Inside the final furlong, however, the longtime leader was weakening. Alterite, who had already been driven along some way out, was finally making gradual headway.

But wider out, Kitten's Dumplings was producing a superior kick, and she quickly forged ahead. Alterite kept on doggedly to threaten on the inside, and Caroline Thomas flashed home belatedly, but neither could overhaul Kitten's Dumplings. The winner negotiated 1 1/8 firm-turf miles in 1:48 2/5 and furnished $11.80 to win.

"Good ones are easy to (train)," trainer Mike Maker noted. "She's a little tough to deal with. She needs more schooling in the winner's circle. She looked a little nervous in there."

Maker commented on why Leparoux rode Kitten's Dumplings onto the track early while the remainder of the field stayed in the paddock and walking ring.

"With the crowd today at Keeneland (32,717, a record attendance for the fall meet), we thought we'd get her out of there and play it a little safe," Maker said.

Leparoux was familiar with her preferred tactics.

"She always comes from behind," Leparoux said. "We had the pace today; they went very fast up front. I tried to settle her behind, and she made a big run at the end.

"I tried to get a jump on Johnny (Velazquez, riding Alterite) before I actually asked this filly. We got to the lead and he never could catch us."

Alterite (right) came up a neck shy of making John Velazquez the all-time leading earner among North American riders (Keeneland/Coady Photography)
Alterite narrowly failed to give Velazquez an historic achievement. The Hall of Fame rider is about to overtake Pat Day on the all-time career earnings list, and the $240,000 winner's check would have put him over the top. Going into Saturday, Velazquez was just $181,719 behind Day's North American record of $297,914,839, according to Equibase. Alterite's $80,000 check, coupled with two victories and a third-place finish earlier in the day, pushed Velazquez's total to $297,888,320.

"Seemed to have a good trip and she ran hard," Velazquez recapped. "They were going a little faster than I anticipated, but she came down the lane and put up a good fight and got beat by a nice horse. She ran the best she could, that's for sure. She didn't give up at all. When the other horse (Kitten's Dumplings) passed her, she tried to come back again. (Kitten's Dumplings) was just better than mine today."

Alterite's trainer, Chad Brown, wasn't as pleased with her trip.

"I didn't like my trip -- she was too wide the whole way," Brown said. "The winner really ran good. She's a nice filly. I was not happy with the trip. I thought she lost too much ground the whole race. She's been looking great here. I have no excuses with her training."

Caroline Thomas crossed the wire a half-length behind Alterite in third. Leigh Court was relegated to fourth, followed by Say, I'm Already Sexy, Emotional Kitten, Sarach and Concise.

With this first Grade 1 laurel to her credit, Kitten's Dumplings has compiled a record of 12-6-1-0, $691,262. A two-length debut winner at Saratoga as a juvenile, she was a rallying fourth in the Natalma at Woodbine in her stakes bow, and then finished up the track in the Alcibiades at Keeneland after stumbling at the start. She concluded her juvenile campaign with a three-length tally in the La Senorita on the turf at Retama Park.

Seventh in the Ginger Brew at Gulfstream to kick off 2013, Kitten's Dumplings was runner-up in the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs next out. She again proved not to be at her best over the Keeneland Polytrack, finishing a distant fifth in the Ashland, although she was only 1 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up.

Kitten's Dumplings reverted to turf and turned in two impressive come-from-behind wins at Churchill Downs. In the May 3 Edgewood, the bay blew past her rivals in the stretch to win by 3 3/4 lengths. In the June 15 Regret over nine furlongs, Kitten's Dumplings came from 16 lengths back to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths. She made it three in a row in the July 24 Lake George at Saratoga. Shipped out west for the August 17 Del Mar Oaks, the deep closer had no sort of pace set-up, and did well in the circumstances to get up for fourth.

The Kentucky-bred filly was produced by the winning Grand Slam mare Granny Franny. Kitten's Dumplings' full sister, the aforementioned Granny Mc's Kitten, broke her maiden in the August 28 P.G. Johnson at the Spa, and most recently finished fourth in last Sunday's Miss Grillo.

This is the family of mother-son Irish Group 3 winners Aminata and Swift Gulliver. Kitten's Dumplings' fourth dam is the influential matron *Fanghorn, dam of French co-champion sprinter Double Form. Going even deeper in the maternal ancestry, one finds 1988 champion steeplechaser Jimmy Lorenzo.

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