Winning Favorites

It’s been a good couple of days for favorites here in Saratoga—especially because they’ve come in at nice prices.

In the second race on opening day, Kathern’s Kitten braved the rain to win a maiden special weight by a length, paying $17.20.  She made her first start on dirt at Churchill Downs, finishing fourth “with interest”; on Friday she finished with “good kick.”

Dana Byerly of Hello Race Fans! and Green but Game characterized the win as “free money,” and Kitten watchers would likely concur.  Last fall, Ken Ramsey, who owns Kathern’s Kitten with his wife Sarah, told me that he named his most promising Kitten horses after members of the family; “Kathern” is his wife Sarah’s middle name, so you gotta figure, right, that he thinks highly of the horse he named after his wife?  Sarah’s nickname is “Kitten,” from “Kathern,” and that’s how the Ramseys’ Kitten’s Joy got his name, and we all know how that turned out.

Yesterday, Saratoga native Teresa Pompay made a rare appearance at Saratoga with Compliance Officer, a horse who has shown an affinity for Belmont Park.  Last summer Pompay brought several horses to Saratoga from Monmouth with little success; as she said then and reiterated yesterday, “I don’t like to come unless I have a shot.  Friends and family all come out, and it’s hard if we don’t do well.”

According to Trackmaster’s past performances, Pompay has started at Saratoga seven times in the last five years; her best finish was a third with Mannington in 2009.

Sunday, Pompay didn’t have to worry about who was watching:  Compliance Officer went to the front and never looked back, withstanding a late challenge by Good Prospect to win by a neck and pay $13.80.

She expressed appreciation to Compliance Officer’s owners, Klaravich Stables and W.H. Lawrence.  “They’ve given me some great opportunities and some babies; that’s the first time that’s happened.”

Saying that winning at her home track “feels like the Breeders’ Cup,” Pompay indicated that Compliance Officer may run back at Saratoga towards the end of the meet.  If he does, no doubt her local fan club (of which I am unabashed and unobjective member) will be out in full force.  You can read a Brooklyn Backstretch story about Terri here, and one in the Saratogian here.

Looking ahead: The third race on Monday offers a number of options for the New York racing fan.  The Evan Shipman Stakes for New York-breds has drawn Ruffino; Groomedforvictory; Giant Moon; Naughty New Yorker; and Icabad Crane, in addition to Slevin and Mighty Morris.

H. James Bond’s Ruffino was a close second in last fall’s Empire Classic and came back to win the New York Stallion Series Cormorant in November.  Barclay Tagg’s Groomedforvictory has been a favorite of mine since his very first start in November of 2007, on the Cigar Mile undercard.  He finished second that day and has compiled a respectable race record since, with five wins and 14 in-the-money finished from 20 starts.

Giant Moon won all three starts as a two-year-old and went on the Derby Trail for trainer Rick Schosberg.  A ninth place finish in the Gotham over a sloppy track and a fourth in the Wood sent him to the Preakness instead, where he finished eighth and sustained an injury that kept him out until the following year.  He showed the promise of his youth when he won the Grade III Excelsior, then faltered on turf and in the Grade III Westchester, which he attempted after a layoff of nearly a year.   He’s finished first and second in his last two starts.

And then there’s Naughty New Yorker.  He’s made 61 starts, earning over $1 million.  He’s eight now, and he hasn’t won since February of 2008, but he hits the board with regularity and was a great second here last year.  He will no doubt be the fan’s choice on Monday afternoon.

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