Multiple Grade 1 winner Big Blue Kitten is slated to headline a contentious renewal of the Grade 3, $250,000 Red Smith Handicap on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 1 3/8-mile turf event, part of a 9-race program on Saturday, is the last graded turf race of the year on the NYRA circuit, and is for 3-year-olds and up.
Big Blue Kitten, trained by Chad Brown for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, enters the Red Smith via a strong second-place finish in the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine. Brown and the Ramsey's had toyed with the idea of sending the son of Kitten's Joy to the Breeders' Cup, but opted instead for the Canadian International, and came within three-quarters of a length of earning a third Grade 1 victory with Big Blue Kitten.
“We thought the [Canadian International] would be an easier spot for him; we were looking to put him in a race he could win,” said Brown. “He ran very well. We were pleased with his performance, and he's come out of it well and is training great.”
Big Blue Kitten won last year's Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park and Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga Race Course, before finishing second in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park and eighth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
His 2014 campaign did not begin until August 2 at Saratoga, when he took the 1 1/16-mile Lure Stakes, which he followed up with a second-place finish in the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Cliffhanger at Monmouth and a fourth-place finish in the Joe Hirsch before his most recent outing in the Canadian International.
With the Aqueduct turf course still on the softer side, Big Blue Kitten proved in his last race, run over “good” ground, that he may be just as adept over ground with some cut in it.
“I've always thought he prefers firm ground, but he's run well over softer ground, particularly last time, in the [Canadian International],” said Brown. “Perhaps he's more versatile than I initially thought.”
Big Blue Kitten, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, will break from post 4 with Joel Rosario aboard.
The 7-2 second choice on the morning line is Legendary, from the barn of trainer Niall Saville. Legendary made his first North American start earlier this year, and has been steadily improving ever since. In his most recent outing, the son of Exceed and Excel took the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Knickerbocker at Belmont over Grade 1 winner Up With the Birds.
Legendary, who is owned by Walter Swinburn, drew post 8 and will be ridden by Sheldon Russell.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out a trio of horses in the Red Smith led by Micromanage, who nearly made his turf debut a winning one in the 1 ¼-mile Bowl Game Stakes on October 19 at Belmont in his 21st career start.
Micromanage sits at 8-1 on the morning line and will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post 5.
Pletcher will also saddle Red Rifle and Unitarian, at 10-1 and 12-1 on the morning line, respectively. Red Rifle was most recently second in the Grade 3, 1 ½-mile Sycamore at Keeneland, while Unitarian finished fifth in the Sycamore off a nearly six-month layoff.
Red Rifle and Unitarian drew posts 1 and 10, respectively, and will be ridden by Joe Bravo and Manny Franco.
Rounding out the field are Margano, a full-brother to Barbaro who finished third in an allowance race at Keeneland in his latest outing; Dynamic Sky, third-place finisher in the Canadian International; St. Albans Boy, fifth-place finisher in the Bowl Game; Calvados, runner-up in the Laurel Turf Cup last out; Can'thelpbelieving, who ran third in the Dueling Grounds Derby two starts ago; and Manighar, an Australian import who will be making his second North American start.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2020 Paulick Report.