By Jim Freer
Charming Kitten achieved a major breakthrough on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, winning the $100,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap (Grade 3) for his grist victory in a graded stakes.
The 5-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy came into the race with four second place finishes and two third place finishes in 16 graded stakes starts.
The 17th time proved the charm for Charming Kitten. He took the lead a furlong from the finish and held off a late run by Kaigun to win by a neck in the McKnight at 1 ½ miles on turf for 3-year-olds and up.
Two races later at Gulfstream, Goldy Espony won the $100,000 La Prevoyante Handicap (Grade 3) giving her three Grade 3 victories this year.
Goldy Espony, the even money favorite, led gate to wire in winning the 1 ½ mile turf stakes for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up. She beat 35-1 shot Maximova by 1 ½ lengths. Rosalind finished another neck back in third.
Also at Gulfstream on Saturday, Best Behavior beat Stonetastic by two lengths in the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (Grade 3) at six furlongs on dirt for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
All-sources handle for Saturday’s eleven races was $11,671,158. That was the highest in the 14 days of Gulfstream’s 2015-2016 championship meet that began Dec. 5.
The previous high was $10,470,456 for eleven races on Saturday Dec. 19.
There were 119 starters Saturday for an average of 10.8 per race. It was the eighth day of the meet with more than ten starters per race. Six of Saturday’s races were on turf.
Charming Kitten was ridden by John Velazquez and won in 2:27.76 on the course listed as firm.
Charming Kitten is trained by Todd Pletcher and is a homebred of Ken and Sarah Ramsey.
The Ramseys also bred and owned Kitten’s Joy, the 2004 Eclipse Award turf champion, and they breed many of their mares to him. The dam of Charming Kitten Is Iteration.
Gulfstream Park: 9th race, Dec. 26,2015
9-CHARMING KITTEN 11.20 5.40 3.00
10 -KAIGUN 4.40 2.80
11 -DA BIG HOSS 2.20
$2 EXACTA 9-10 PAID $54.60; $1 TRIFECTA 9-10-11
PAID $55.90; 10 CENT SUPERFECTA 9-10-11-6 PAID
$63.32; $1 SUPER HIGH FIVE 9-10-11-6-3 PAID $6,322.40
Goldy Espony, a 4-year-old, was ridden by Javier Castellano and won in 2:29.51.
Chad Brown trains Goldy Espony for Swift Thoroughbreds and Bradley Thoroughbreds.
The win was the fifth in six starts this year for Goldy Espony, an Irish-bred daughter of Vespone.
Gulfstream Park — 11th race, Dec. 26, 2015
12 -GOLDY ESPONY-FR 4.20 3.60 2.80
2 -MAXIMOVA 23.80 13.40
7 -ROSALIND 4.80
$2 EXACTA 12-2 PAID $98.20; $1 TRIFECTA 12-2-7
PAID $353.90; 10 CENT SUPERFECTA 12-2-7-11 PAID
$238.36; $1 SUPER HIGH FIVE 12-2-7-11-5 PAID $24,258.10
Best Behavior, a 5-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, gave trainer Marty Wolfson still another win in a distaff stakes race at Gulfstream.
With John Velazquez riding, Best Behavior took the lead after a half mile and won the Sugar Swirl in 1;09.69. She was the 5-1 second betting choice in the seven-horse field.
It was the first graded stakes win for Best Behavior, who is owned by Miller Racing whose principals live in Palm Beach County.
On Dec. 12, Best Behavior finished second to the Wolfson-trained Cali Star in the one-mile Rampart (Grade 3) at Gulfstream. Cali Star is owned by Ben Walden Jr. and Larry Taylor.
Gulfstream Park — Fourth Race, Dec.26,2015
4 -BEST BEHAVIOR 12.20 3.20 2.40
2 -STONETASTIC 2.20 2.10
1 -YOU BOUGHT HER 3.20
$2 EXACTA 4-2 PAID $25.60; $1 TRIFECTA 4-2-1 PAID $46.10; 10 CENT SUPERFECTA 4-2-1-5 PAID $14.47; $1 SUPER HIGH FIVE 4-2-1-5-3 PAID $289.60