The horse was Dual Jewels, he was at a claiming level well below his ability and he coasted by 4 1⁄4 lengths as the 6-5 favorite at Churchill Downs on No. 27, 2007.
Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey were looking to get a young man from Mechanicville on the scoreboard with his first victory as a head trainer, so they entered Dual Jewels in such a severe drop-down that there were 18 claims for him.
In a way, Chad Brown paid them back for their generosity by training Big Blue Kitten to a Grade I victory in the United Nations at Monmouth Park on July 6.
He’d like nothing better than to do it again today at Saratoga Race Course.
Big Blue Kitten is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line behind Man o’ War winner Boisterous in the Grade I Sword Dancer.
By Kitten’s Joy, Big Blue Kitten hadn’t won a graded stakes since the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame at Saratoga two years ago.
He lost to Boisterous by a length and a quarter in the Grade II Monmouth on June 9, but came back to win the United Nations and will be a big factor in the mile-and-a-half Sword Dancer, a race that doesn’t appear to have much early pace.
Brown is just happy to train a good horse for the meet-leading Ramseys, with whom he has a dozen horses in his barn.
“The United Nations was very satisfying, from a personal standpoint, to win a Grade I with one of their horses by their flagship stallion. Very rewarding for me, personally,” Brown said. “Ken always has been a supporter of mine. I met him when he had horses with Bobby Frankel, and when I went on my own, he gave me five horses to start with.
“He was very adamant about me getting a win as soon as I could, so he dropped the horse way in at Churchill. There were 18 claims in for Dual Jewels, and Ken was very willing to lose that horse, maybe at a loss, to help me.”
Ramsey may be helping Brown a little bit in the Sword Dancer, too.
Big Blue Kitten will be coupled with the front-running Stormy Lord, a Mike Maker-trained front-runner who hasn’t gone longer than a mile in three straight starts and who has been running in claiming races his last two.
Stormy Lord sould help ensure an honest pace up front, especially important after Teaks North ran on Thursday and is expected to scratch from the Sword Dancer.
Ramsey, who has won the Keeneland and Churchill meets this year, vowed to win Saratoga, too, and is doing everything in his power to do so.
“I think he’s terrific for the game,” Brown said. “He’s helped a lot of people along the way, in all different areas of the game, whether trainers or agents, breeding farms . . . whatever, or the two-dollar bettor that he runs into and gives him some cash. Ken and Sarah are both very generous people, and I think they’re great for the game. And he’s competitive. He likes to win, and it’s all in good fun. And he backs it up. When he says he’s going to do something, he usually does it.”
For the third race in a row, New Jersey-based Joe Bravo gets the mount on Big Blue Kitten.
“Both times he’s ridden him, he’s given me excellent feedback on the horse, that he likes the horse, he’s confident in his ability in top races like the United Nations,” Brown said. “He’s so fond of the horse, and I love that. And he learned things about where to place him in races. After the first time he rode this horse, he said, let me ride back on him, and he really worked at it.”
Boisterous is 5-2 off his Man o’ War win, and trainer Shug McGaughey said the mile and a half shouldn’t be a problem.
The other option was to run in today’s mile-and-a-quarter Arlington Million, but stablemate Point of Entry had been aimed at that race before getting injured, and anyway, Boisterous finished ninth to Little Mike there last year, the only time he’s been off the board in the last 10 starts.
“He didn’t run any good over there, and I never could have a reason why,” McGaughey said. “We kind of felt like the mile and a half might be better for him than a mile and a quarter. We’re here, we didn’t have to ship him. Johnny [Velazquez] was going to be here, and we wanted him to be able to ride him. So that’s what went into it.
“Just from talking to Johnny, he felt like he’s settling so well now that in a mile and a quarter, he might have to quicken a little bit than he can, and felt that, as well as he’s settling now, running a mile and a half, he can probably guide him a little better.”
The field includes the world record holder at the distance, Twilight Eclipse, who ran 2:22.63 to win the Pan American by four lengths at Gulfstream Park on March 23.
“It was pretty impressive,” trainer Tom Albertrani said. “Just to see him win was impressive, but when they later announced that it was a track record, and then a minute later they announced it was a world record, it was pretty amazing. It was a pretty great accomplishment.
“There’s not a great deal of pace in the race. We’d probably be sitting pretty close to the pace no matter what, and it’ll just be in his own rhythm and Javier [Castellano] will just ride his own race. Boisterous and Chad’s horse are the two to beat.”
The field also includes the sturdy Optimizer, who will be racing for the 28th time since he broke his maiden first time out two years ago, including all three Triple Crown races last year.
“I think it’s a little bit farther than his best distance, but he’s such a hard-trying horse, he could come alive,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.