In the decade of racing covered by TRC Global Rankings, only 25 stallions have achieved a Performance Index of 1030 or higher. One of them is Kitten’s Joy, who we have long regarded as a strong candidate for the title of world’s most underrated sire.
Saturday’s Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket could provide another great advert for his potency when KAMEKO lines up in picture-perfect circumstances and with more than a puncher’s chance to turn over last year’s brilliant juvenile Pinatubo and the rest.
Since he entered stud in 2006, Kitten’s Joy has had to battle the bias against turf runners in the USA. It’s not only the data that speaks to him being underrated, but also his owner, Ken Ramsey, who considered selling him to European concerns in 2017 after a growing feeling he was not getting the respect he deserved among domestic bloodstock experts.
Kitten’s Joy has never had any problems impressing the TRC ranking system.
In the same year that Ramsey’s frustration reached its zenith, so too did his stallion’s rating. The grandson of Sadler’s Wells was the poster boy for this article, in which he commented that he had been “an outstanding sire on the grass now for a while”.
The following year saw the best runner by Kitten’s Joy really blossom. Roaring Lion won four G1s on the bounce for John Gosden, characterising his performances with strong travelling and a great turn of foot on the occasions he encountered a firm surface, and guts and generosity in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on soft terrain, which did not suit him one bit.
Now, in that year’s 2000 Guineas, Roaring Lion ran a race which still isn’t talked about enough. He raced alone towards the stands’ rail (his fault, as he had a tendency to edge left) and finished fifth, but other results that day suggested this was a seriously disfavoured track position.
Either way, the point is that the factors that suited Roaring Lion there very much apply to Kameko here. The ground is going to be fast on the Rowley Mile and the way the undulating track is shaped always seems to get bigger fields racing hard by halfway. We already know that the same circumstances suit this very talented young horse and he must surely be poised going well at the two-pole.
Good record on Tapeta
Throughout his 2-year-old season, Kameko thrived as Roaring Lion did. He wasn’t quite able to emulate the victory of his predecessor in the G2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket when touched off by Royal Dornoch, but what was clear about this sizeable colt there was the rate at which he was learning.
There is a complication. Kameko used the seasoning and conditioning of that hard-fought encounter as expected to bolt up in the G1 Vertem Futurity over a mile. That race was at Newcastle on the Tapeta surface and form on that artificial environment doesn’t always translate to turf in this country. Not only that, but it must be pointed out that progeny of Kitten’s Joy have established a good record there.
If we assume Kameko was simply just improving as his physique and previous signs of outward inexperience suggested, then this is a race that simply must be taken seriously in our context here.
It’s most notable feature is the striking fashion in which Kameko remained on the bridle while the pace of the race had begun to take its effect on a raft of talented runners. It is the ability to withstand the effects of pace that is one of the hints to the ethereal presence of class. Watch for yourself in the video below how Kameko had the race shot to pieces even before jockey Oisin Murphy began to nudge him. The final hundred yards of the race were arguable the colt’s least impressive snapshot, and even that did not stop him winning by more than three lengths.
In the way of Classic success for Kameko is a group of talented colts headed by the mighty Pinatubo, a son of world #5 sire Shamardal, who already has one Classic winner of 2020 in French 2000 Guineas winner Victor Ludorum. Let’s be honest: if current world #1 trainer Charlie Appleby produced him in the same form as last year, neither Kameko or Champion The Wonder Horse is going to beat him, but there is always a question mark about the transition from two to three for an outstandingly precocious horse.
Of course, only a fool would discount Aidan O’Brien in the 2000 Guineas. After all, the trainer we named as the greatest of the TRC era (and others too) has won this race no fewer than ten times. He won’t have Galileo to help him on this occasion, but it may not matter because his portfolio is pretty strong.
Arizona is the nominal Ballydoyle #1, but it may have been a tough choice for Ryan Moore because stablemate Wichita (also by fast-rising sire No Nay Never) is arguably a nicer individual and gets back on fast ground, having finished behind Arizona when that one chased home Pinatubo at a respectable distance in the G1 Dewhurst Stakes.
It’s also worth noting the Godolphin pair Military March and Al Suhail. Both will be suited by further than a mile in due course and need to be watched carefully with that in mind, but their stirring duel in the G3 Autumn Stakes here yielded a fast time and both should be stronger now.