Precious Kitten captures `Martha'

Filly finds it lonely at the top, as her owners and trainers couldn't attend Laurel race

Horse racing

October 01, 2006|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun reporter

Precious Kitten, a horse so dark brown she looked black, pranced into the winner's circle yesterday evening after the $200,000 Martha Washington Breeders' Cup race, a 1 1/16-mile run for 3-year-old fillies on the Laurel Park turf course.

There, she was one lonely winner.

Her owners, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, were home in North Carolina at a family birthday party for their twins. Her trainer, Dale Romans, the leading trainer at Churchill Downs, was unable to attend because he is on suspension, and the assistant trainer, William Fox, didn't make the trip from Churchill, either.

Instead, Precious Kitten, who ran brilliantly under the guidance of jockey Erick Rodriguez to beat the favorite, Meribel, by a neck, was greeted at the trophy presentation by groom Tom Morgan and van driver Bob Ford.

It was quite a race to miss.

Mambo With G, the other half of the Precious Kitten entry, set the pace along the inside for more than six furlongs, and Precious Kitten settled in behind her.

"I had the perfect position and got the perfect trip," Rodriguez said. "I stayed behind the speed and then went between horses when I saw the opening I wanted."

Precious Kitten, by Catienus, went three wide between other horses as she emerged from the far turn and came down the stretch four-wide before taking control in mid-stretch.

She paid $20.40, $7.20 and $5 and completed the course in 1 minute, 35.21 seconds. It was her second career victory in eight starts and her first victory on grass, although she has finished second, third and fifth on the turf this summer.

After finishing second, Meribel jockey Ramon Dominguez filed an objection for alleged interference in the stretch, but the stewards quickly disallowed it. Gasia finished third, 2 1/2 lengths farther back.

"I think I did everything right," Rodriguez said. "I think I kept my horse straight."

And, in the end, Dominguez shrugged and said: "It was a good race. We were coming home strong and the winner wasn't slowing down."

Rodriguez, 26, smiled. It was a surprisingly rewarding day, as he earned the $120,000 first-place purse money for the largest victory in his career.

"It is the craziest ride I've gotten so far," Rodriguez said after hopping from his horse. "I've never been on the horse before and I've never ridden for this trainer before. My agent got a call and said OK. I thought I had a real good shot from what I read in the Racing Form, and when I saw her in the paddock she looked good. Not too big, but still good size.

"The groom gave me my instructions and I did what you saw - stayed behind the speed until I find the right place to make a move and win the race."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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