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Kitten’s Joy – An Unsung Hero

Legendary stallion sadly passes on

The world of thoroughbred horseracing lost an outstanding stallion last week when Kitten’s Joy died after suffering a heart attack in his paddock.

The son of another leading sire in the form of El Prado was 21 years old at the time of his death.

Kitten’s Joy in his element

A grandson of Sadler’s Wells, Kitten’s Joy defied his top-class turf form to become champion sire in the mainly dirt orientated United States.

Kitten’s Joy, Leading Sire in Turf in North America for a remarkable six years running, was Leading Sire in the USA in both 2013 and 2018 (according to Blood Horse statistics), and at the time of his death, had been responsible for more than 100 stakes winners.

North America’s Champion Turf Horse of 2001, Kitten’s Joy won nine of 14 starts including both the Gr1 Secretariat Stakes and Gr1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at three.

Kitten’s Joy, whose offspring also had a fine record in Europe, had been responsible for over 990 winners at the time of his death, with his progeny earnings currently standing at over $163 million.


At the time of writing, Kitten’s Joy had 15 Gr1 winners, while in 2022 the sire had been represented by six black type winners, with his tally including Gr2 Edgewood Stakes winner New Year’s Eve.

Kitten’s Joy had a fine record in the Breeders’ Cup, supplying Breeders’ Cup winners Stephanie’s Kitten (Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Gr2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf), Bobby’s Kitten (Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint) and Oscar Performance (Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf). His son Big Blue Kitten finished third in the 2015 Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, and another son, Catapult, finished runner up in the 2018 Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Kitten’s Joy more than made his mark overseas, where his progeny included such stars as Roaring Lion, Kameko, and Hawkbill.

Roaring Lion, Cartier Horse Of The Year in 2018, won all of the Gr1 Irish Champion Stakes, Gr1 Coral Eclipse, Gr1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Gr1 Juddmonte International.

Sadly now deceased, Roaring Lion has made a pleasing start with his sole crop to race starting their career in 2022. Roaring Lion’s early runners including the promising Lion Of War, an impressive winner of his first two starts.

Roaring Lion in his prime

His paternal half-brother Kameko (whose dam Sweeter Still is a half-sister to former Cape sire Kingsbarns) won the Gr1 Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes at two and Gr1 Qipco 2000 Guineas at three, while fellow Kitten’s Joy son Hawkbill captured both the Gr1 Coral-Eclipse and Gr1 Dubai Sheema Classic before retiring to stud in Japan.

Out of a mare by Roberto horse Lear Fan, Kitten’s Joy enjoyed notable success when mated to mares containing Roberto in their pedigrees. Inbreeding to Roberto produced a flurry of high-class Kitten’s Joy-sired runners including the Gr1 winners Admiral Kitten, Hawkbill, Henley’s Joy, Real Solution, Sadler’s Joy, and Stephanie’s Kitten.

By the same sire as another outstanding stallion Medaglia D’Oro, Kitten’s Joy came from what proved over the years to be a high-class female line.

His dam Kitten’s First, a half-sister to Gr1 United Nations Handicap winner Down The Aisle, also produced triple Gr1 winner Precious Kitten (the dam of Gr3 winners Divining Rod and Jehozacat), as well as the multiple stakes winning dam of Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and champion Dreaming Of Anna. The latter, in turn, was a full-sister to Gr2 Washington Park Handicap winning sire Lewis Michael, with both horses sired by Rahy.

Kitten’s Joy was represented in South Africa by his Gr1 Secretariat Stakes winning son Admiral Kitten -whose son Now I Got You ran second in this year’s Gr1 Gold Medallion, while Kitten’s Joy also sired Courageous Cat, who won his only start at Turffontein by eight and a half lengths.

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