Lane's End

March, 27, 2010
FLORENCE, Ky. -- Four months ago at the Breeders' Cup, owner Ken Ramsay politicked his way down the Santa Anita apron. He was handing out campaign buttons advertising his stallion, Kitten's Joy, and the five starters that would leave the Breeders' Cup gates that weekend. Among them was Dean's Kitten, a Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf runner whose victory in October 2009 was his most recent going into the Lane's End Stakes.

Kitten's Joy got a resounding advertisement and Mr. Ramsay got his 2010 Kentucky Derby contender when Dean's Kitten rolled to a 2 -length victory in Turfway's key prep race on Saturday. Ramsay, who was in Dubai to watch Furthest Land finish a disappointing last in the World Cup, was briefed of the score via cell phone by his family -- including son Jeff and wife Sara -- who gathered in the winner's circle to claim the trophy.

"We're very excited," Jeff Ramsay said after the chestnut colt got his third career win. "It's been my father's lifelong dream, to win the Derby, so he definitely will be running there."

Under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, the 3-year-old homebred was fourth at the quarter pole, third at the half, and rolled to the lead at the top of the stretch. The slow pace set by Ranger Heartley -- a quarter in :24.48 and a half in :48.57 leading to a final time of 1:50.59 for the 1 1/8-mile event -- set up perfectly for the victor.

"I had a ton of horse at the top of the stretch; I was very confident in him," Velasquez said. "I really like this horse; he has a lot of try and he loves the Polytrack."

"We were looking for just what we got," trainer Mike Maker said. "He's been laying a little closer the farther he's been going."

Call this a dress rehearsal of sorts, a chance to whet the appetite, taste of things to come. From here, the question of racing surface comes to mind, because Dean's Kitten has only run once on dirt, and it didn't go well. But there's one thing we know about Ken Ramsay: he won't let a little question like that stop him from chasing Derby dreams.

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