First World War Victorious in G3 Kitten’s Joy

February 3, 2024

First World War takes the Kitten’s Joy in his return to turf (Coglianese)

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.— Qatar Racing and Hunter Valley Farm’s First World War, back on turf after two unsuccessful tries on the dirt, got a patient ride from Tyler Gaffalione behind longshot pacesetter Tocayo before powering through the stretch to win Saturday’s $175,000 Kitten’s Joy (G3) by a half-length at Gulfstream Park.

The 12th running of the 1 1/16-mile Kitten’s Joy was the fourth of five stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds, four graded, worth $850,000 in purses on a 12-race card anchored by the $250,000 Holy Bull (G3), Gulfstream’s next stop on the road to the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) March 31.

It was the second win of the day for Gaffalione, who has been aboard Brendan Walsh-trained First World War ($7) in each of his five lifetime starts, and third in the Kitten’s Joy following Chess’s Dream (2021) and Grand Sonata (2022). The winning time was 1:39.78 over a firm turf course.

“All the credit goes to Brendan and his team. They brought the horse over ready and he fired big for us,” Gaffalione said. “Everything went to plan. The speed horse jumped out in front and my horse settled great behind him. He got into a great rhythm and he responded well for me down the lane.”

Front-running winner of the one-mile Dania Beach Jan. 6 on the Gulfstream turf in his prior start, Tocayo broke alertly and was in front after going opening quarter-mile in 24.44 seconds and the half in 47.97. First World War prompted the pace two wide with Edgartown tracking inside in third and Hammerstein fourth.

Tocayo straightened for home with the lead after six furlongs went in 1:10.97, but First World War quickly drew up on even terms in mid-stretch and edged clear inside the eighth pole with plenty left to hold off a late run by Edgartown.

“My horse was well within himself,” Gaffalione said. “He made the lead a little bit earlier than I would have liked him to and was waiting a little bit, but he finished the job.”

Tocayo stayed up for third, followed by Freedom Principle, Edgartown, Quokka, 6-5 favorite Noted and Deadpan. Agate Road was scratched.

First World War made his first two starts on grass, graduating in a maiden special weight last September at Kentucky Downs and running fourth, beaten 1 ½ lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Bourbon (G2) at Keeneland. Given a chance on dirt he ran second in back-to-back races, most recently a half-length behind Otello in Gulfstream’s Mucho Macho Man Jan. 1.

Otello was among four horses exiting the one-mile Mucho Macho Man that returned in the Holy Bull.

“He’s a tremendous talent. He’s still learning, but the sky’s the limit for him,” Gaffalione said. “If he keeps developing the way he is, I think we’ll have a pretty nice horse down the road.”

Very well done piece by The King, John Stettin…

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