HALLANDALE BEACH, FL –Nine weeks after making his grass debut in the Breeders’ Cup, John Oxley’s Flameaway transferred his stakes-winning form from dirt to turf with a gutsy front-running victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream Park.
The sixth running of the Kitten’s Joy and the seventh renewal of the $100,000 Ginger Brew, both at 7 ½ furlongs on turf, were among five stakes for 3-year-olds worth $450,000 in purses on an 11-race program along with a pair of six-furlong sprints, the $75,000 Limehouse and $75,000 Glitter Woman.
Highlighting the card was the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man, the first of Gulfstream’s series for 3-year-olds leading up to the 67th running of the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) March 31.
Already a two-time stakes winner at 2 in races rained off the grass, including the 1 11/6-mile Bourbon (G3) last fall at Keeneland, Flameaway ($7.40) won for the fourth time in six career starts in his 3-year-old debut. He completed the distance in 1:29.78 over a firm turf course.
Jockey Julien Leparoux had Flameaway in front from their rail post through a sensible quarter-mile in 23.78 seconds and half in 48.02, with mild pressure to his outside from Mojovation and both Power of Attorney and 7-5 favorite Fast Boat battling for third in behind.
Flameaway maintained a short lead rounding the far turn and entering the stretch as Mojovation, Fast Boat and Pony Up all came to present a challenge. Flameaway briefly lost the lead in mid-stretch but surged again on the inside through the final sixteenth of a mile to emerge from a four-way photo a neck in front of Pony Up, who was a neck ahead of 30-1 long shot Renaissance Frolic.
It was another neck back to Fast Boat in fourth, followed under the line by Mojovation, Speed Franco and Power of Attorney.
“I wanted to put him in the race and he put me in front pretty easily. Coming into the stretch I started to ask him, and he’s the kind of horse who waits on the others to join him,” Leparoux said. “They actually passed me a bit and when he saw them, he began to really kick it in again. When he has competition he’s a game horse, and it was a great win.
“We won on the dirt in Keeneland where he ran similar, fighting back to win,” he added. “It was a big battle to the wire and he fought hard to win. He’s a horse that if they come up next to him he’s going to try, for sure.”
Trainer Mark Casse had wanted to get Flameway, a chestnut son of Scat Daddy out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Vulcan Rose, on the turf throughout his 2-year-old campaign but was unable to until the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) Nov. 3, where he contended for the lead before fading to eighth, beaten less than four lengths.
“He’s a cool horse. He’s a got a wealth of talent. I don’t know if he’s figured it all out yet,” said Casse’s son and assistant, Norman. “I think he got a little lost at the top of the stretch. It looked like those horses were going to run by him, but as soon as they put their heads in front he picked up the bridle again and ran on. Julien deserved the credit for a great ride. We’re looking forward to the future with him.”