Two of America's best chances to wrest the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) from the firm grip of European challengers both reside in trainer Chad Brown's barn.
In the 15-year history of the Filly & Mare Turf, European contenders have won nine times. This year's contingent from overseas includes 2013 winner, Dank.
Brown's big guns in the 1 1/4-mile race are grade I winners Stephanie's Kitten, a homebred racing for Ken and Sarah Ramsey; and Dayatthespa, who is owned in partnership by Steve Laymon, Bradley Thoroughbreds, and the brothers Jerry and Ronald Frankel. The chestnut filly was bred in New York by Castellare DiCracchiolo Stable, John Cracchiolo, and Scott Goldsher.
Stephanie's Kitten is the 3-1 second choice in a field of 11 that will go to the post at approximately 12:43 p.m. on Nov. 1. Brown took over the training of the 5-year-old mare by Kitten's Joy in the winter from Wayne Catalano. The multiple grade I winner started the season slowly, finishing eighth in the Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland. She followed that with a fifth-place finish in the Just a Game Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park, which she had won the previous year. Her form began to improve substantially by the time she'd arrived at Saratoga in the summer.
"Her first couple of races were disappointing, but she is now rounding back into form," Brown said. "We are optimistic she'll fire another big one here Saturday. I do think she is peaking at the right time."
Stephanie's Kitten, out of Unfold the Rose, by Catienus, hit the board for the first time this year July 19 when she finished a neck behind Somali Lemonade in the TVG Diana Stakes (gr. IT). Next came another second-place finish by three-quarters of a length behind Euro Charline in the Beverly D. (gr. IT).
The big bay mare strode back to the winner's circle after the Flower Bowl Stakes (gr. IT), where she finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Phipps Stable's Abaco, who also has been entered in the Filly & Mare Turf. In the Flower Bowl at Belmont, Stephanie's Kitten produced a 117 Equibase Speed Figure, which is highest rating generated in the most recent start among all Filly & Mare Turf contenders.
Brown also has Dayatthespa, who comes into the Breeders' Cup off back-to-back victories in the Yaddo Stakes at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 24 and the grade I First Lady Stakes at Keeneland, where she defeated Better Lucky by 1 1/4 lengths.
"She's a very consistent horse," Brown said. "When you need a win, she steps up and gives it to you."
Dayatthespa, a 5-year-old daughter of City Zip, had been cross-entered in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) but Brown said her running style makes the Filly & Mare Turf a better spot for her, even though she is untested at 1 1/4 miles.
"She could be the controlling speed, potentially," he said. "We didn't choose the Mile because we wanted to have her run against her own gender and the potential pace set-up was appealing."
Among the European contenders—Dank, Fiesolana, Just The Judge, and Secret Gesture—Brown said he is most concerned about Dank.
"There is a question of whether she can fire off the layoff," Brown said about Dank, who has only made two starts this year.
James Wigan's homebred daughter of Dansili has not started since June 18 at Ascot, where she finished fifth and was later discovered to have a bruised foot.
"The European trainers are all great horsemen and they are strategic about the horses they choose to bring, knowing what type of ground will work for certain horses," Brown said. "It should be a tough race but I like my chances with both of mine."