'Kitten' tops Connally Turf Cup

The Big Bad Kittens are invading Texas, as grade I winner Admiral Kitten faces seven opponents in the $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Park Jan. 25.

One of the multitude of graded stakes winners sired by Kitten's Joy , Admiral Kitten, owned and bred, of course, by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, comes into the 1 ⅛-mile race with a win and five seconds in his last six starts. In all, he has three victories and six seconds in 10 career starts.

Out of the Grand Slam mare Reachinforthestars, Admiral Kitten captured the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes last August and has since finished second in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap and Hollywood Derby for trainer Mike Maker.

His previous second-place finishes came in the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs and Grade 3 Arlington Classic and American Derby, both at Arlington Park.

Admiral Kitten will be ridden by Julien Leparoux and will break from post 5.

Maker actually could provide the main threat to his own horse with King David, owned by Scarlet Stable. The 5-year-old son of Hat Trick finished second in this race last year, and captured the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park and was second in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs in 2012.

In his last start, he was sixth in the DiLiberto Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, but blew a shoe in the paddock, which had to be repaired. He will once again be ridden by Rosie Napravnik and will break right inside his stablemate from post 4.

Admiral Kitten, who should be the overwhelming favorite, could face a stiff challenge from Fair Grounds shipper Marine Patrol, a winner on turf at Churchill Downs and Keeneland and a strong closing second in the Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds in his last start. The son of Tapit is trained by the always dangerous Wayne Catalano for Gary and Mary West.

From a class standpoint, the Chris Clement-trained 7-year-old Vertiformer, is coming off five consecutive stakes appearances, with his best showing a third-place finish behind Twilight Eclipse in the William L. McKnight Handicap at Calder Race Course Nov. 24, 2012. The son of Dynaformer, however, has not run since January 2013. He will break from the rail under Joe Bravo.

None of the others on paper look capable of upsetting the favorite, although Fredericksburg, breaking from the outside, is coming off a strong victory in an allowance/optional claimer at Gulfstream Park for trainer Michael Matz. The son of Speightstown has won two of his last four starts, with a third and fourth. Luis Saez has the mount.

Rounding out the field are Cajun Don, Arthur’s Court, and Michael's Gabriel.