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Kitten's Joy purring away nicely in his new life at Hill 'n' Dale

Sire of Eclipse hero Roaring Lion proved popular after moving studs

Roaring Lion: son of Kitten's Joy won the Eclipse on Saturday
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With Eclipse Stakes hero Roaring Lion the newest international star in a shining galaxy of progeny, leading North American turf sire Kitten’s Joy stands on the threshold of even greater global success after covering a high-quality group of mares in his first season at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Kentucky this year.

“We exceeded expectations on all fronts,” Hill ‘n’ Dale president John Sikura said while revealing that the 17-year-old son of El Prado received 150-plus mares.

“There was a great response to the horse. He bred a full book of quality mares owned by internationally important breeders, so what we hoped for came to fruition,” Sikura said, adding that Hill ‘n’ Dale did not utilise foal-sharing or other deals to fill Kitten’s Joy’s book.

Breeders patronising Kitten’s Joy this season included some of the most successful international players, such as Juddmonte Farms, the Niarchos family, Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Godolphin and Shadwell, Sikura said.

Kitten’s Joy could have covered even more mares but Hill ‘n’ Dale opted to manage his book strategically.

“We want to keep in consideration that he is a middle-aged horse and thus be reasonable in our approach. We also didn’t take many mares who maybe in the past went to the horse,” Sikura said. “We tried to be fair but selective.

“We always knew he would appeal primarily to a self-breeding program or a breed-to-race programme, but we also knew there would be commercial response as well,” he said, noting that Kitten’s Joy, who stood for a $60,000 fee, is a horse whose offspring at sales offer potential high performance to buyers worldwide without breaking budgets.

“Europeans will come to the sales and they will look at Kitten’s Joy offspring closely. Roaring Lion was a $160,000 yearling [purchased by David Redvers for Qatar Racing]. Kitten’s Joy is extremely good value,” Sikura said, noting that the sire’s son Hawkbill won this year’s Dubai Sheema Classic for Godolphin and finished fourth in the Eclipse after winning that race in 2016.

Kitten’s Joy is on course to lead all North American sires by turf earnings for the fifth consecutive season in 2018.

His progeny have already banked more than $10 million this year and he ranks among the top four sires worldwide, outside of Japan, by progeny earnings, keeping company with Candy Ride, Dubawi and the late Scat Daddy.

“He’s a fantastic sire. He just produces horses of immense quality - they’re tough and they’re sound,” said Sikura, who also paid tribute to Kitten’s Joy’s breeder Ken Ramsey, who raced the 2004 champion turf runner and developed the stallion at his Ramsey Farm before selling a 50 per cent interest to Hill ‘n’ Dale.

“We thank Ken Ramsey. It was a courageous choice for him to decide to do something different. He’s micro-managed the horse and had great success. I’d like to recognise his hand in making it all work,” Sikura said.

Under the terms of the sale contract, Ramsey and Hill ‘n’ Dale were each limited to a set number of seasons to Kitten’s Joy, and Ramsey continued to support the horse this season, Sikura said.

Ramsey has bred half of Kitten’s Joy’s 12 Grade/Group 1 winners, including 2015 US champion turf male Big Blue Kitten, who stands at Calumet Farm, and five-time Grade 1-winning mare Stephanie’s Kitten, who was sold privately for a reported $2.8m to Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm.

Hill ‘n’ Dale sought to acquire Kitten’s Joy for its roster partly because Sikura is a strong believer in the importance of turf breeding and racing.

“He’s proven by racetrack performance that he can produce the ultimate achiever, which is what people are looking for. And we’d like to see a resurgence of turf sires in America, which would keep us in closer contact with Europe and the rest of the world,” he said.

“Let’s hope that Kitten’s Joy will continue to be the pre-eminent turf sire here and that Flintshire will be next.”

Juddmonte-bred and raced Flintshire, a son of Dansili who earned over $9.5m racing around the world, stood his second season at Hill ‘n’ Dale this year.

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Europeans will come to the sales and they will look at Kitten’s Joy offspring closely
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