At the wire for the July 25 Lake George Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Race Course, scarcely two lengths separated the top six finishers. Aug. 19 at the Spa, five of them, including top two Centre Court and Better Lucky, return to fight for supremacy in the $200,000 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid (gr. IIT).
Assuming the favorite's role in the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-old turf fillies is Stephanie's Kitten
, the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT) heroine. She wound up fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Lake George, beaten just a half-length after being bottled up in the stretch. Prior to that, Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred daughter of Kitten's Joy
had been no worse than third in seven starts on turf and artificial surfaces, including her victory in last year's Alcibiades (gr. I) at Keeneland
"She's been doing excellent since the Lake George. It was a tough beat, but what are you going to do? We’re looking forward to this next race, and I think the extra sixteenth will help her," trainer Wayne Catalano said of the bay filly.
Stephanie's Kitten opened her sophomore campaign with a third behind Karlovy Vary
in Keeneland's Ashland (gr. I) on Polytrack. In her next start, she was a frontrunning winner of the Edgewood on the grass at Churchill Downs
John Velazquez rides Stephanie's Kitten, 9-5 on the morning line, from the rail.
A narrow second choice at 2-1 on the morning line is Centre Court
, a daughter of Smart Strike
out of the A.P. Indy
, who may have established herself as one the top 3-year-old turf fillies in the country with the Lake George victory.
Trained by George "Rusty" Arnold for G. Watts Humphrey, Jr., Centre Court was an impressive maiden winner in her third start of 2012 on May 19 over the Churchill Downs turf, where she returned a month later to post a one-length victory in the Regret (gr. IIIT) on the grass at the 1 1/8 mile distance of the Lake Placid.
With Julien Leparoux aboard, Centre Court will leave from post 2 under high weight of 122 pounds.
Darley Stable's Better Lucky
rallied from 10 lengths back in the Lake Placid, her second start on turf. In her grass debut, the Ghostzapper
filly was a nose winner of the May 28 Sands Point (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park
, which followed a 5 1/4-length victory in the mud May 2.
"I've had horses who ran well in the mud come back and take to the grass," said trainer Tom Albertrani. "The Sands Point was coming up light, so really we were just taking a chance. It worked out."
The Lake Placid will be Better Lucky's first start beyond 1 1/16 miles, but Albertrani said the extra distance should not bother her.
"Longer distance could help her, because she was closing in the last race," he said. "She got pinched back into the first turn and ended up closing well."
Eddie Castro will ride Better Lucky, 5-1 on the morning line, from post 4.
Returning to the Saratoga turf for the first time since her 2011 debut is the Todd Pletcher-trained Disposablepleasure
, most recently a well-beaten fourth in the July 21 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at the Spa.
filly closed out her 2-year-old campaign with a gutsy victory in the Demoiselle (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack
but has yet to return to the winner's circle. She garnering a third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), a second in the Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II), and a second in the Mother Goose (gr. I) at Belmont.
"As a 2-year-old, we felt like we saw quite a bit of improvement when we worked her on the turf," said Pletcher. "Her first start was on the grass. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't quite what we had expected. Then she started running successfully on the dirt, so we've kind of had a delay getting back to the turf.
"Based on her last race here, which wasn't as good as we were expecting, we thought about trying the grass again," he continued. "And now that having her worked twice on it since then, it seems like she really does like it. So we're excited about getting her back on it."
Saratoga's leading rider, Ramon Dominguez, will be aboard Disposablepleasure, 8-1 on the morning line, from the 5 hole.
Pletcher will also saddle Wertheimer and Frere's Medolina
, whose three-race win streak was snapped when she finished fifth in the Lake George. Medolina, 4-1 on the morning line, will leave from post 3 under Javier Castellano.
Rounding out the field is Caroline Forgason's Somali Lemonade
, who was sixth in the Lake George last time out for Michael Matz.
PP., Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Stephanie's Kitten (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 118, W M Catalano, 9-5
2. Centre Court (KY), J.R. Leparoux, 122, G R Arnold, II, 2-1
3. Medolina (KY), J. Castellano, 118, T A Pletcher, 4-1
4. Better Lucky (KY), E. Castro, 120, T Albertrani, 5-1
5. Disposablepleasure (KY), R.A. Dominguez, 116, T A Pletcher, 8-1
6. Somali Lemonade (KY), J. Rosario, 118, M R Matz, 12-1