Big Blue Kitten, ridden by Joe Bravo, blew past pacesetter Little Mike down the stretch to win Saturday's $500,000 United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park.
The United Nations is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race. The victory by Big Blue Kitten earns him an automatic berth in the 1 1/2-mile Turf on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Little Mike, last year's Breeders' Cup Turf champ, shot to the lead in the 1 3/8-mile race coming out of the starting gate. The 8-5 favorite in the eight-horse field set the pace through most of the race.
With about a furlong to run, Little Mike faltered allowing Big Blue Kitten to take the lead with Willcox Inn moving into second. Trained by Chad Brown, Big Blue Kitten drove to the finish to post a 1 1/4-length victory over Teaks North.
Finishing third was Hangover Kid followed by Little Mike, Willcox Inn, Skyring, Harrods Creek and Russian Greek.
Big Blue Kitten covered the distance in 2:11.98 on a firm turf course.
"Another memorable ride from Joe Bravo," Brown said. "That was one for his highlight reel. I had so much confidence in Joe riding this horse. I came down when he ran at Monmouth last out, and Joe told me if he knew this horse a little bit more he would have probably won that one.
"After his last race, Joe really sold me on giving the United Nations some consideration. I spoke with Joe this morning and pretty much left it up to him. He had so much confidence in our chances when we spoke today."
Big Blue Kitten, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, easily registered the biggest win of his 16 race career. The $300,000 increases his earnings to $698,530 with nine victories.
The 5-year-old began 2013 with a third in the Fort Lauderdale Stakes at Gulfstream Park and then posted a pair of optional claiming wins. On June 9 he finished second in the Monmouth Stakes on the grass with Joe Bravo riding.
"It's amazing how much you can learn from one race," Bravo said. "Looking back, we could have won that last one (Monmouth Stakes), but I took what I learned there and used it today. Little Mike came off the rail just a little in the stretch and we were able to get through."
Big Blue Kitten returned $7.00, $3.40 and $2.80. Teaks North paid $6.80 and $4.60, and Hangover Kid paid $8.40 to show.