Derby Kitten wins Lexington Stakes

Ken Ramsey admits there was a bit of hopefulness involved when he dubbed one of his promising colts Derby Kitten.

The longtime owner, a Kentucky native, has long dreamed of winning the Run for the Roses.

Turns out, he’ll have to wait at least another year thanks to Derby Kitten’s slow development. Then again, Ramsey says Preakness Kitten has a nice ring to it too.

Ramsey and his budding star will likely get their chance next month after the 3-year-old colt roared to victory in the $200,000 Lexington Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland.

”The Preakness could be on our agenda,” Ramsey said with a laugh after his horse romped through the rain over Keeneland’s synthetic surface.

Why not? Derby Kitten made it look easy. He strolled along in last for the first half of the race until jockey Julien Leparoux asked him to go as they entered the deep stretch. With a little nudge, Derby Kitten took off to race by the leaders and beat Prime Cut by 1 1/2 lengths.

”Julien is the best guy out there on a come-from-behind horse,” Ramsey said. ”He sits there and times it just right, just perfect.”

Leparoux gave most of the credit to his mount, which had finished a solid second in each of his last two starts.

”We had a good trip,” Leparoux said. ”I had a lot of horse and I knew I was going to get there.”

Derby Kitten paid $20.40, $6.60 and $3.60 while picking up his first stakes win for trainer Mike Maker. Despite a resume that’s comprised almost entirely of turf races, Ramsey says he’ll happily take a crack at the second jewel of the Triple Crown on May 21.

The owner was so overjoyed after Derby Kitten covered the 1 1-16-mile in 1:42.03 that he bolted through the rain to the infield winner’s circle even though track officials planned to have the ceremony in the usual winner’s circle to keep time spent in the elements to a minimum.

”I like the view over there better,” Ramsey said with a laugh.

Prime Cut stalked the pace all the way around but didn’t have an answer in the final yards and paid $4.40 and $3.

”He was right there,” said jockey Edgar Prado. ”I think (the turns) were a little too sharp for him but he really came back. He kept on trying and just got beat today. I thought the winner ran big.”

Casper’s Touch led early and held on for third while paying $3.

The Lexington has served as the last gasp for owners still trying to crack the Derby field. Only favorite Silver Medallion had a shot, but needed to win to collect enough graded stakes earnings to reserve a spot under the twin spires on May 7.

Instead he finished fourth and looked a bit tired two weeks after a disappointing fourth in the Santa Anita Derby.

Trainer Steve Asmussen brushed off questions afterward, though jockey Javier Castellano offered no excuses for the horse’s so-so performance.

”I thought things were setting up perfectly,” Castellano said. ”But when I asked him he just didn’t fire.”

The defeat means Charismatic remains the last horse to sweep the Lexington and the Derby, winning both in 1999.

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