The Breeders’ Cup Forum: Homebred ‘Joy’
Saturday was an extraordinary day for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, their family, and everyone associated with Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville, Ky., after three homebreds by their stallion Kitten's Joy (also bred by the Ramseys) scored Grade 1 victories: Big Blue Kitten, in the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes at Saratoga; Admiral Kitten, in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park; and Real Solution (via disqualification) in the Arlington Million.
Also on Saturday, two fillies by Kitten's Joy (a son of the Sadler's Wells stallion El Prado) finished third and fourth in the G1 Del Mar Oaks and another finished second in a division of the Hatoof Stakes at Arlington. When the weekend was over, Kitten's Joy had moved from No. 5 to No. 1 on bloodhorse.com's leading sire list.
Mark Partridge, manager of Ramsey Farm since 1995 (the native of England previously was broodmare manager of Juddmonte Farms) was still on cloud nine when the Paulick Report caught up with him in the wake of the unprecedented success.
What did this past weekend mean to Ramsey Farm as it related to Kitten's Joy?
What didn't it mean? We broke so many records – three Grade 1 races in one day by homebreds, and by a homebred stallion. It has never happened and may never happen again. It was absolutely huge. The calls we got and the emails of congratulations haven't ended.
That usually translates into an increased stud fee. What goes into the farm's decision for setting Kitten's Joy's 2014 fee?
Obviously it can't be just what he's accomplished on the racetrack. We have to look at whether he is being accepted by pinhookers and at the sales. If there is any chink in his armor it would be at the sales (Kitten's Joy had 45 yearlings sell in 2012 for an average of $65,411, just over 1.5 times his 2010 stud fee of $40,000. He stood for $50,000 live foal in 2012 and 2013). Everybody knows he's a good horse, but they know he wasn't bred to blue-hen broodmares. There were a lot of good, hard-working mares with two blank dams, even though the genetics were very strong.
We had a yearling out of a Smart Strike mare, a great looking filly that sold for $220,000 at Saratoga this year. We couldn't even reach the average price for the sale with her ($295,093), and this was a nice filly. The first two two dams were blank.
The physicals on the mares have been very important. We've gotten rid of horses we claimed and brought back to the training barn if I didn't like their physical makeup. We sent them back to the racetrack. We have a number in our heads (for a 2014 stud fee) but haven't finalized it. It won't be announced for awhile.
What are you looking for physically?
A horse that is pretty much like him. He is not what people expect a mile and a half horse to look like (Kitten's Joy won the G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes at 12 furlongs in 2004 when he was voted an Eclipse Award as champion turf male). He's not long backed. He's well balanced, very muscular. He's what I call a Baby Bear soup – he's just right. Very strong, powerful, with a big hip and strong neck. That's what I try to look for in a mare. I don't like light boned mares. I don't like great big mares and don't like small ones, either. Average size. We don't want a crooked mare on the farm. It's simple stuff, basic things I look for.
Is there a particular cross that's worked well?
We noticed early on that the Hail to Reason cross works very well. We've headed in that direction. His five Grade 1 winners this year were Roberto line crossing. Every single one. Grand Slam is doing well for him, too, and Storm Cat, but nowhere near the Roberto line and Hail to Reason. It's golden.
Kitten's Joy's first-year stud fee was $25,000 in 2006 and because he was not well supported the Ramseys bred most of the mares in his earliest foal crops (99 named foals in 2007, 108 in 2008, 85 in 2009). Has that changed much?
We knew going in he wasn't going to get much support, because it's hard to sell a turf sire. We bred about 80% of the mares to him up until last year. Of the 214 mares (bred to Kitten's Joy in 2012), I think we bred 70. He got an incredible book – some of the best mares in the country. When those babies get to the yearling sales next year, it's going to be a completely different story. A few may find their way into sales as weanlings this fall.
We turned down over 100 mares last year. You have to accept the best pedigrees. If they weren't strong enough, we wouldn't accept them. Even the first few years, if someone wanted to come in and the broodmare sire wasn't something we liked, we said no. It wasn't about the money – it was the big picture.
We couldn't get our own mares into him last year. We bred some of them to Midnight Lute, Curlin and others. This year Kitten's Joy was bred to about 191 mares.
Because of the success of Kitten's Joy and his offspring on turf, has there been much international interest in his offspring?
We've had a lot of interest from Southern Hemisphere breeders, but we have no intention of shuttling. Only a few of his yearlings have been bought by European buyers. Most of the ones you see in Europe are ours. I do think that will change. There is still reluctance from the Europeans that he is a firm turf American stallion. His babies can run on the soft ground. Dermot Weld (in Ireland) has a nice 3-year-old filly, Pay Day Kitten, that is doing well. It's a myth that they don't like soft ground. They do. Once the Europeans figure that out, they'll come strong.
The Kitten's Joy story reminds me of how South American breeders have worked, standing a homebred stallion and breeding their own mares to him.
It wasn't by choice. We always had faith in the horse, but we didn't plan to do it this way. We have had other stallions, but couldn't support all of them. We decided which one we wanted to keep. Nothing to Lose is doing pretty well in Australia, Badge of Silver went to Airdrie, and Roses in May went to Japan. We took the money from Roses in May and the others and bought mares to support Kitten's Joy.
We've got a lot of big plans for him. We plan on assaulting Royal Ascot really big next year, and we've got the Breeders' Cup this year.