ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 5, 2014)–Regarded for many years as one of America’s best turf riders, Corey Nakatani’s skills were on full display in Sunday’s $100,000 Zuma Beach Stakes as he guided Kentucky invader Luck of the Kitten to an authoritative 1 ¾ length win, getting one mile on grass in 1:34.84 while besting nine other 2-year-old males.
Quick out of the gate from post position four, Luck of the Kitten was pressed by Reflected Star through fractions of 22.80, 46.55, 1:11.42 and 1:23.23 and under a powerful hand ride late, prevailed comfortably.
The second choice in the wagering at 5-2, Luck of the Kitten paid $7.40, $4.80 and $3.60.
“He’s got a lot of ability,” said Nakatani, who registered his first win of the Autumn Meet. “He’s got a high cruising speed, which is good for 2-year-olds and he’s a big, strong colt…I got to figure him out a little bit today and hopefully we can use this as a steppingstone. He relaxed really nice for me and had plenty left so I think the next step could be the Breeders’ Cup.”
Trained by Wesley Ward and owned and bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the chestnut son of Kitten’s Joy came off a second place finish in a seven furlong stakes at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 6. He picked up his second win from four starts and with the winner’s share of $60,000, increased his earnings to $134,200.
“They were going pretty fast,” said Ward’s assistant, Blake Heap. “I was a little bit worried when I saw the first fraction. I was hoping it was slower. I haven’t talked to Wesley, so I don’t know what’s next, but I would imagine it’s the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile, Turf, Grade I, mile, Oct. 31). I would guess that’s where he goes next.”
Ridden by Tyler Baze, Red Button was attentive to the pace and slid through a narrow opening at the rail turning for home to finish second, one length in front of longshot John’s Success.
Off at 9-1, Red Button paid $8.00 and $5.20.
“With a better trip, we should’ve won it,” said Baze. “Nakatani was out in the four and five lanes all the way around there and I finally said (‘heck with it’) and went to the inside around the far turn. We could’ve won it.”
Well positioned under Elvis Trujillo in mid-pack going to the far turn, John’s Success ran on to just out-finish 3-2 favorite Dallas Skyline by a neck for the show, paying $8.00.
Proven at a mile turf at Del Mar, Dallas Skyline had no apparent excuses under Mike Smith.
“He didn’t really fire today,” said Smith. “He sat further back today and he was happy to do it. I was expecting him to be a little more aggressive but he just ran through the motions today for whatever reason. I certainly wasn’t his ‘A’ race by any means. I set him up for a good kick home, but he just never did.”