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'Kitten' bolts into Derby picture

He was halfway across the world with the clock approaching 1:30 a.m., but Ken Ramsey couldn't sleep until he found out one more piece of vital news on the day.

After watching his Furthest Land finish 14th and last in the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Saturday, the Nicholasville-based owner was in need of a pick-me-up.

Thus, when Ramsey called his family in Kentucky to find out what had transpired in the Grade II, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park, he gratefully learned his day hadn't gone so bad after all.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred colt Dean's Kitten helped make up for his stablemate's disappointment when he drew off for a 21/2-length victory over Northern Giant in the 11⁄8-mile Lane's End before a crowd of 21,327.

For all the Eclipse Awards and hardware in his trophy case, Ken Ramsey has long maintained a Kentucky Derby victory would dwarf any other achievement he and his wife have within the sport.

When Dean's Kitten made a bold three-wide move on the final turn to collar pacesetter Ranger Heartley entering the lane, he all but ensured his owners would have their first Derby starter since Ten Cents A Shine finished eighth in the 2003 Run for the Roses.

"Um ... I would say yes, he will definitely be running in the Derby," laughed Jeff Ramsey, son of Ken and Sarah. "He's got enough (graded earnings) now so I'd be shocked if he didn't go."

Though the Ramseys already had one possible Kentucky Derby candidate in Florida Derby runner-up Pleasant Prince, the $291,000 first-place money Dean's Kitten earned Saturday should easily put him among the top 10 on the graded stakes list — well above the 20-horse cut off.

The son of Kitten's Joy only boasted two wins from 10 previous starts and had not been victorious since taking the Vision Stakes on the turf at Belmont last October. But Dean's Kitten proved trainer Mike Maker correct in thinking the chestnut colt would show more once the distances started stretching out.

"That's kind of been the case with these Kitten's Joys (offspring) ... they've been screaming to go 11⁄8 miles to 1¼ miles but, unfortunately for us, there haven't been many races of that caliber," Maker said. "Dean's Kitten ran a tremendous race today. He's been laying a little closer the farther he's been going and I thought he was laying perfect today."

Ranger Heartley assumed his customary position at the head of the field after breaking from post position four. Dean's Kitten settled into the outside path in third just off the flank of Vow to Wager through opening fractions of :24.48 and :48.57.

Race favorite Connemara — the only horse in the nine-horse field with a previous graded stakes win — swung out seven-wide after rating in last and made a charge toward the front around the final turn. However, Dean's Kitten had gotten the jump on everyone coming into the lane and was a length clear of runner-up Northern Giant in mid-stretch, while Connemara could only get up for third.

"He's why I came here today, he has a lot of try," winning jockey Cornelio Velasquez said. "I had a ton of horse at the top of the stretch."

"He wasn't handling (the track) completely but once I got him out, he really came running," said Russell Baze, who was aboard Connemara. "Overall it was a solid effort."

Final time for the 11⁄8-mile test was 1:50.59.

Darley Stables' Kettle River was scratched and will point for the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 17.

In the Grade III Bourbonette Oaks for 3-year-old fillies going one mile, the Ken McPeek-trained Orchestrator fought off a challenge from Age of Humor to get up by a neck for her third win in eight career starts.