FLORENCE, Ky. -- In 11 career starts, Dean's Kitten has raced once on dirt, losing by 34 lengths.
But that little hiccup will not matter toward the 136th Kentucky Derby, into which Dean's Kitten ran himself Saturday at Turfway Park. With Cornelio Velasquez aboard for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker, Dean's Kitten pulled a mild upset over Polytrack in the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes.
Ken Ramsey was in Dubai while most of his family, including Sarah, rejoiced in the Turfway winner's circle.
"Not knowing my dad the way I do, will he want to run in the Kentucky Derby?" joked the Ramseys' son, Jeff. "Yes!"
Dean's Kitten, breaking from post 8 in a field of nine 3-year-olds, got a great trip in the annual Turfway showcase, which was run under sunny skies and in mid-50s temperatures. After Ranger Heartley and Vow to Wager began to tire on the lead, Dean's Kitten was the first to pounce, going to the lead from the outside. Down the stretch, as Northern Giant took up closest chase, Dean's Kitten was kept to his task, edging away to prevail by 2 1/2 lengths. He returned $15 as third choice.
"We were looking for just what we got," said Maker.
Northern Giant, the 7-2 second choice under Calvin Borel, held second, another 3 1/4 lengths before Connemara, the 17-10 favorite. Then came Chief Counsel, Vow to Wager, Letsgetitonmon, Outlaw Man, Doubles Partner, and Ranger Heartley. Kettle River was an early scratch.
Dean's Kitten is a homebred by Kitten's Joy, the 2004 Eclipse turf champion raced by the Ramseys of Nicholasville, Ky. The colt has raced eight times on turf, twice on Polytrack, and once on the dirt when he finished 34 lengths back in the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park last October. The May 1 Derby, of course, will be run at 1 1/4 miles over dirt at Churchill Downs, but with $291,000 in the graded-earnings criteria that govern Derby eligibility, Dean's Kitten is in.
The victory was the second in the Lane's End for Maker, who won the 2006 running with With a City.
Maker was somewhat distracted in watching the race on a television monitor on the racetrack apron. His toddler son, Michael, fell on the pavement minutes before the gates opened and was crying loudly throughout the race. Maker's wife, Barbara, tended to the child's bump on his forehead.
The Ramseys and Maker teamed to win the marquee race of the 2009 Turfway fall meet when Furthest Land won the Kentucky Cup Classic. Ken Ramsey was overseas Saturday to watch Furthest Land finish last in the Dubai World Cup.
Ontrack attendance was reported at 21,327.