Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey started the Keeneland fall season off with a bang, winning the first race on opening day with Admiral Kitten Oct. 5, taking another with Pleasant Run the following afternoon, and winning two more with Southern Joy and Gentleman's Kitten Oct. 10.
The affable Kentuckians will send out their top contender of the meet Oct. 13, when Stephanie's Kitten takes on Samitar as part of an eight-horse field in the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT).
There's nothing the Ramsey family likes more than winning with homebred horses by their top sire Kitten's Joy , and last season Stephanie's Kitten stepped up to the plate with victories in the Darley Alcibiades (gr. I) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT). This year the sophomore filly won the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs and most recently took the Aug. 19 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Stakes (gr. IIT) over QEII rival Centre Court for trainer Wayne Catalano at Saratoga Race Course.
The 1 1/8-mile QEII for 3-year-old turf fillies goes as the ninth on a 10-race card with an approximate post time of 5:21 p.m. EDT. It presents a stiff challenge for Stephanie's Kitten, with five other U.S. graded stakes winners as well as Tannery
, a group III winner in Europe, also slated to run.
Tannery could become the second straight Irish-bred winner of the QEII, joining 2011 victress When Together and 1994 heroine Danish as the only runners foaled on the Emerald Isle to triumph in the 28-year-old race.
A daughter of Dylan Thomas, Tannery arrived at Keeneland the evening of Oct. 9 after a day that began with a trip to New York from Monmouth Park
for a flight to Louisville and then a van ride to Lexington. The QEII will mark her second U.S. start since she was purchased privately this summer by Richard Santulli after running her first 10 races in Europe.
"We had watched videos of her races and she was pretty tenacious," trainer Alan Goldberg said from Monmouth. "She would give you all she had."
Tannery was a group III winner at The Curragh in July and arrived in Goldberg's barn a week before making her U.S. debut in the Sept. 15 Garden City (gr. IT) going 1 1/8 miles on the Belmont Park
"I don't think she was crazy about the turf that day," Goldberg said of the filly's third-place finish behind fellow QEII contenders Samitar and Somali Lemonade
. "The ground was very hard."
Martin Schwartz's Samitar enters the QE II off a victory as the odds-on favorite in the Garden City, having finished a head in front of Caroline Forgason's grade III winner Somali Lemonade to claim her first stateside win. The Garden City was a second start in North America for the Rock of Gibraltar filly, who won the group I Irish One Thousand Guineas going a mile at The Curragh May 27. She ran a narrowly-beaten third in the July 25 Lake George Stakes (gr. IIT), won by Centre Court
, in her U.S. debut.
arrived with Samitar in Lexington late Oct. 9 aboard a flight from trainer Chad Brown's base in New York. The precocious New York-bred daughter of City Zip
streaks into the QEII off four consecutive victories for Jerry Frankel, Ronald Frankel, Steve Laymon, and Bradley Thoroughbreds. Although she had a four-month break in the middle of the season, she won the Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park
at the beginning of the year. She then took the Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT) there in March and the April 19 Appalachian (gr. IIIT), and returned with a 1 1/4-length victory in the Riskaverse at Saratoga going a mile Aug. 31.
Godolphin Racing's Better Lucky
was a head in front of Samitar and a neck behind Centre Court in the Lake George. Tom Albertrani trained her to a Sands Point Stakes (gr. IIT) win at Belmont in May, and although she finished fifth in the Lake Placid last time out, she was beaten only 2 1/4 lengths.
The filly arrived on the same flight as her fellow New York-based competitors. Overseeing her preparation in the Bluegrass is Albertrani's assistant Josh Flores, who explained why his employer moved Better Lucky to the turf three starts following a 5 1/4-length romp in the Belmont mud.
"After she won on the mud, he thought if she ran well on the mud that she might like the grass," he remarked, adding an alibi for the Lake Placid running. "She had a wide trip that day and maybe she ran back too quick three weeks from the Lake George. She runs better fresh."
Allowance winner Treasured Up
completes the field from the barn of Al Stall Jr. All runners carry 121 pounds.
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Better Lucky (KY), S. Bridgmohan, T Albertrani
2. Tannery (IRE), E. Trujillo, A E Goldberg
3. Treasured Up (KY), B.J. Hernandez, Jr., A M Stall, Jr.
4. Centre Court (KY), J.R. Leparoux, G R Arnold II
5. Stephanie's Kitten (KY), J.R. Velazquez, W M Catalano
6. Somali Lemonade (KY), J. Rocco, Jr., M R Matz
7. Samitar (GB), R.A. Dominguez, C C Brown
8. Dayatthespa (NY), J. Castellano, C C Brown