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Here Kitty, Kitty: The story of a im-purr-fectly named thoroughbred dynasty

Kitten’s Dumplings, Kitten Kaboodle, Big Blue Kitten… what’s with all these feline-themed racehorse names? Heather Benson investigates.

From Heather:

I want to start this off with a disclaimer that I, in fact, adore Ramsey Farm and the way they do business in the horse racing industry. Genuine horse lovers who do it right from the ground up, they are obviously in the game for the love of it. From the way they raise their yearlings (outside, in the sun, on hay, oats and water) to the way they look after them when their career is done (see video below), I admire the way they do just about everything they do… except, that is, the way they name their horses.

Nuno Santos and his OTTB dressage horse Ken’s Kitten at the Retired Racehorse Training Project Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium at Pimlico Racecourse on October 6, 2013:

[Back Forty Media and Marketing]

I love Thoroughbreds and I love horse racing, I am pretty outspoken about that fact. And I think they are some of the wonderful, graceful and majestic creatures on the planet. And with that in mind, I like to see their racing names befit such steeds. Think of some of the great horses in racing history: Man o’War, Secretariat, Whirlaway, Barbaro… these are names that fit the awesomeness they displayed on the track. Would it have been the same if, when Secretariat was powering down the stretch 31 lengths in front in the 1973 Belmont, if the announcer had said “And there is Joe Bob’s Turtle in front”? No, it indeed would have lost some of its poetic luster.

And so we have Ken and Sarah Ramsey and their homebred stallion, Kitten’s Joy. They bred him, raced him and took him home to stand at stud… only nobody wanted to breed to him. And so they did it themselves, handpicking mares they thought would work best with their favorite son and thus having dozens of homebreds to name each year.

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The Ramseys with Kitten’s Joy

Now, no matter what breed you love, we all know there is a tendency to use a horse’s ancestors’ names as part of their new name. Think of all the “Zippo/Doc/Poco” Quarter Horses out there or the “Khemo/Padron/Shah” Arabians. Thoroughbreds are often no different. And in this case, it resulted in a passle of kittens.

Much like a barn cat population running rampant, the “Kitten” horses have exploded onto the racing scene this year. Horses with names like “Kitten’s Dumplings,” “Amen Kitten,” “Kitten Kaboodle” and “Big Blue Kitten” have won race after race after race in 2013 — including 19 stakes races — and have vaulted their once ignored sire onto the very top of the leading sires in the United States.

Kitten’s Dumplings kicks in late to win the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Stakes at Keeneland on October 12, 2013:

[Breeders’ Cup World Championships]

Through the success of their “kittens,” the Ramseys have taken the leading owner title at just about every track they regularly race at this year and look well on their way to winning an Eclipse award (horse racing’s version of the Oscars) in that capacity. And while I love the program’s success and applaud each win; at the same time, the part of me that wants to see a “noble” name cross the finish wire flinches. Sigh, I guess I might just have to get used to being a horse racing “crazy cat lady” if I am going to be a fan of these horses, which I plan to.

Top 10 List of the Worst Kitten Names (these are real horses’ racing names, I am so not kidding):

Kitten’s Dumplings

Fear the Kitten

Grannys Mc Kitten

Kittens Mittens

Runs Like a Kitten

Dance With Kitten

Bitty Kitty

Luck O The Kitten

Three in the Kitty

And Pervis. OK, it is a not a “kitten” name, but when looking through the names of all of Kitten’s Joy babies, I found it. What a terrible name (he wasn’t named by Ramseys by the way). So I guess there are worst things that “Kittens Mittens.”

BONUS VIDEO: Actual kitten racing.

Go Riding!

Heather Benson is a former racetrack executive, professional handicapping analyst and owner of a Triple Crown winner (well, at least a horse that played one in a movie). But far more importantly, she is a is still that girl who gets giddy when the starting gate opens and cries every time she watches a replay of Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes. Join her each month as she takes you on a journey through the world of horse racing, from top to bottom, with a little bit of everything in between! Heather also operates Back Forty Media and Marketing, a full service marketing firm focusing on telling story of equine ventures around the country. Go to her website for more info and to follow her on Facebook at www.backfortymarketing.com

hssecretariat1Heather: “Me and my ‘Triple Crown winner,’ a.k.a. Cyclone Larry, taken at the North Dakota Horse Park in 2009. He was a racing prospect I owned that failed utterly as a racehorse but was cast in the role of ‘Secretariat’ in the 2010 Disney movie by the same name.”

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