“BIG BLUE KITTEN” WINS G1 $600,000 JOE HIRSCH TURF CLASSIC
ELMONT, N.Y. – Very little was missing from Big Blue Kitten’s resume when he entered the gate for Saturday’s $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. A Grade 1 victory at Belmont Park was among
the only gaps. On a glorious fall afternoon on Long Island, Big Blue Kitten took care of that in style, catapulting to the front in upper stretch and capturing the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch. In the process, he ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:23.39, obliterating the Belmont Widener Turf course record by nearly a full second.
Fantastic Light owned the mark of 2:24.36 set in 2001. “He was sitting on a big race, happy to have the course record on the horse’s resume,” trainer Chad Brown said. “Fast time. Big race. Not surprised.”
Big Blue Kitten, ridden by Joe Bravo, defeated Slumber – also trained by Brown – by a three-quarters of a length. Slumber was second by a nose over Twilight Eclipse. It was another 6 1/4 lengths back to Red Rifle, the 8-5 favorite, in fourth.
Shining Copper, Perfect Title, and Quiet Force completed the order of finish. Big Blue Kitten, a 7-year-old son of 2004 Joe Hirsch winner Kitten’s Joy, won for the 14th time in 29 starts. It was his fourth Grade 1 stakes victory. He pushed his career earnings to $2,616,830 for owner/breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Big Blue Kitten also earned a fees-paid bid to the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland on Oct. 31. The Joe Hirsch was part of the Win and You’re In series sponsored by the Breeders’ Cup. Big Blue Kitten skipped last year’s BC Turf after running eighth in the race in 2013 at Santa Anita. Saturday, Big Blue Kitten had help from his stablemate, Shining Copper, who, under Manny Franco ran six furlongs in 1:11.45 while opening up a double-digit-length lead. Big Blue Kitten was 13 lengths back after a mile in 1:35.26.
But Big Blue Kitten had run on his mind entering the turn, and when he started running entering the far turn, Bravo did not want to stop his momentum. Big Blue Kitten made a four-wide move
around the turn and into the stretch and he stuck the front around the three-sixteenths pole.
“He started getting on the muscle and started pulling me and man I didn’t want to hesitate with him,” Bravo said. “Once you get the ball rolling, you don’t want to stop and start. I saw everybody was just sitting around the turn so I said ‘let’s make them run.’ “ Bravo did say that Big Blue Kitten idled a little bit on the lead but “when those horses came to him, he picked it up again. But, yes he makes you sweat a little bit,” Bravo added. Slumber, who beat Big Blue Kitten in the Grade 1 Manhattan here, did make a run at Big Blue Kitten but had to settle for second. He is not Breeders’ Cup nominated and is unlikely to be supplemented.
“Slumber ran terrific,” Brown said. “Big Blue Kitten sort of sling-shotted past him, got the jump on him turning for home, but he admirably fought back and earned second right on the wire. A mile and a half is probably not his best trip but nevertheless he ran big to run second to Big Blue Kitten today.”
Red Rifle, coming off two superb performances at Saratoga, finished fourth, beaten seven lengths. He was in second position early, albeit that was 11 lengths back after a half-mile, but he
didn’t show that same kick that he did upstate. “He ran a little flat,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I’d say he probably likes the Saratoga turf course better than Belmont. Those races up there were a little stronger. Maybe he’s better in a three-turn situation.”
The Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland will be a three-turn situation and Pletcher said most likely Red Rifle will be aimed at that race.