Ken Ramsey was going to retire Big Blue Kitten at the end of 2014. But the ebullient owner/breeder reversed that decision and opted to keep him in training as a 7-year-old. That turned out to be an inspired choice, for Big Blue Kitten emulated his sire, Kitten’s Joy, by earning an Eclipse Award as champion turf male.

A homebred son of the Unaccounted For mare Spent Gold, Big Blue Kitten was a late foal, born May 1, 2008. Unraced at two, the Chad Brown pupil began his career in maiden claimers but soon progressed over the summer of his 3-year-old season and landed the 2011 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) at Saratoga. Big Blue Kitten started 2012 on a good note by finishing third in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) and coming home best of the rest behind the imperious Wise Dan in Keeneland’s Ben Ali (G3). An audacious tilt at Royal Ascot’s Prince of Wales’s (G1) set him back, however, and he needed five months off after winding up 10th.

Big Blue Kitten roared back with a banner year in 2013. Capturing the United Nations (G1) and Sword Dancer Invitational (G1), he suffered a brutal beat by a nose in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1). He didn’t perform up to that level when eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita.

Although Big Blue Kitten ran well in a second-half campaign in 2014, it was lackluster compared to his previous season. He didn’t resurface from the Breeders’ Cup until Saratoga, making a triumphant return over an inadequate 1 1/16 miles in the Lure. Winless thereafter, he placed in the Canadian International (G1), Cliff Hanger (G3) and Red Smith (G3) and was fourth to dual Eclipse Award winner Main Sequence in the Joe Hirsch. It would have been logical to view him as descending the downward slope of his career parabola, the glories of 2013 well behind him.

But Big Blue Kitten discovered the fountain of youth somewhere along the way, and actually improved upon what once looked like his career peak. Victorious in the May 2 Fort Marcy (G3) in his reappearance, he was a belated second to stablemate Slumber in the June 6 Manhattan (G1). Big Blue Kitten wouldn’t be caught napping by Slumber again, turning the tables on him in all four ensuing starts.

Under regular rider Joe Bravo, Big Blue Kitten stormed to another United Nations victory at Monmouth July 5. In the process, he joined the legendary Round Table by regaining his UN crown two years later. Shortening up a furlong for the August 15 Arlington Million (G1), Big Blue Kitten went down by a grudging neck to hometown hero The Pizza Man on a yielding course. Then on September 26, he finally got his Joe Hirsch title that he was arguably unlucky not to win in 2013. Given a perfect set-up by his rabbit Shining Copper, Big Blue Kitten blitzed to a course-record 2:23.39 for 1 1/2 miles on Belmont Park’s Widener turf.

In the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland, Big Blue Kitten again did better than previously. He loomed menacingly in the stretch before reporting home third to Europeans Found and Golden Horn. Leaving his old foe The Pizza Man back in fifth, Big Blue Kitten claimed bragging rights as the best of the Americans.

Big Blue Kitten, who has amassed $2,936,830 in earnings from a 30-14-8-5 line, isn’t done yet. The 8-year-old will be back for Brown again in 2016 – but not in the familiar Ramsey silks. He’s now owned entirely by Calumet Farm, where he will one day take up stud duty.

TURF MALE

 

FIRST-PLACE VOTES

BIG BLUE KITTEN

 

134

Golden Horn

 

   63

The Pizza Man      41

Photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography.

 ​