Sire: Kitten's Joy
Dam: Summer Theater (Ide)
Trainer: Michael Maker
Jockey: Cornelio Velasquez
Career Record: 11-3-1-2
Graded Earnings: $326,475 (#16)
Running style: Mid-pack / Closer
It's very tough to get a read on how Dean's Kitten will run in the Kentucky Derby since he's only set foot on a dirt surface during a race once in his career (Pilgrim Stakes). That lone dirt effort came over a wet Belmont track rated as "GOOD" and he didn't do a lick of running that day. His last race on the Polytrack at Turfway Park saw him run only a length or two behind the leaders early on, while his previous grass races saw him anywhere from two to seven lengths back in the early stages.
How he got to the Derby: Dean's Kitten attempted graded stakes company twice as a juvenile, each time with so-so success. He ran in the Grade 3 With Anticipation on the Saratoga turf last summer and finished a well beaten fourth. Following a couple of tries against listed stakes company, he was entered in the Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf where he finished a respectable sixth, 2 ¾ lengths behind Pounced.
Dean's Kitten attempted graded company for the first time as a three year old in the Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream in early March, finishing second to Paddy O'Prado in the 1 1/8 mile race on the grass. From there, this colt entered the Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway on the Polytrack, where he produced the best performance of his career and won by 2 ½ lengths over Northern Giant.
What has to happen for him to win: Considering we've seen very little of this colt on dirt, it's anybody's guess as to how he'd end up winning the Kentucky Derby. The fact that he showed some interest early on in the Lane's End suggests to me that he might be forwardly placed in the Derby, and I think that would be a very bad thing for him. Dean's Kitten doesn't appear to possess an explosive turn of foot or big closing kick (at least from what we've seen previously) so his best strategy is take back and to try and wear down the opposition by grinding out each furlong.
About a week ago I was toying with the idea of playing this horse on the back end of some superfecta plays but I've had a change of heart after going a little more in depth into his race history.
While it's true that any horse that's in the gate can win, that doesn't mean they are likely to win. Dean's Kitten would be as unlikely of a winner as Mine That Bird last year...he might even be a bigger long shot. Mine That Bird had Calvin Borel and a rail favoring track, that was at least something (even if everybody ignored those factors). Dean's Kitten, on the other hand, would have to come up with a extraordinary performance to win this race. Anything's possible, but my money will go elsewhere.
Key race: Grade 2 Lanes End (1st)
This is a really good race by Dean's Kitten when you consider the other races he'd run in to this point and the field he was facing. It isn't a race, however, that makes you stand up and proclaim Dean's Kitten as your Derby horse or make you want to run to the OTB to plunk down your 401(k) on him to win.
The Lane's End is the key race not because Dean's Kitten won the race but because he ran so close to the lead. The switch from turf to synthetic obviously inspired this colt to show a lot more interest in the early stages of the race. The possibility that he will show that same interest early on in the Derby is what makes this horse such a long shot for me. There is already a ton of early speed and pressers horses in the field and I think Dean's Kitten would find it very tough to run well if he tries to go with those colts early on.