Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Stephanie's Kitten pounced to a stakes
record-setting victory in Friday's $184,800
Stakes at Churchill Downs, setting her up for a bold assault on the Group 1
Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot June 22. The winner of the Breeders' Cup
Juvenile Fillies Turf over the same course last November, the even-money
favorite completed 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf in 1:40.94, best in 27 runnings
of the Edgewood.
Stephanie's Kitten had raced just once since the Breeders' Cup, finishing third in the Grade 1 Ashland over Keeneland's Polytrack on April 7. While the respective top two from the Ashland, Karlovy Vary and Hard Not to Like, advanced to Friday's Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, Stephanie's Kitten reverted to turf in this second start of the season and loomed as the class of the field.
Despite being bumped and racing in traffic nearing the first turn, the Wayne Catalano filly held her ground beneath John Velazquez, and secured a good stalking position. She tracked pacesetter Welcome Dance through splits of :23 4/5, :47 1/5 and 1:11, had plenty of room to angle out turning for home, and threw down her challenge. Welcome Dance responded and dug in, only to have Stephanie's Kitten keep increasing the pressure. Gaining strength the farther she went, the favorite drove to the front midstretch and pulled away by two lengths, returning $4, $3.20 and $2.60 to her many backers.
The 26-1 shot Firehouse Red closed strongly inside the final furlong for second. Welcome Dance checked in another 1 3/4 lengths back in third, followed by Treasured Up, Dame Marie, Koko Loca, Miz Ida, Lily Hannah, Run a Risk, June Cleaver, Goldrush Girl and More Than Love. Anna Sophia, Matching Skies and Disposablepleasure were scratched, with the last-named reportedly aiming for the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico May 18.
Stephanie's Kitten, who is a perfect three-for-three with Velazquez in the
irons, now brandishes a 7-4-0-3 mark and $974,082 in earnings. The daughter of
turf champion Kitten's Joy broke her maiden in her second career start, but
first on turf, at Arlington Park last August. Third in the Grade 3 Natalma in
her stakes debut at Woodbine, she rallied from well back to take the Grade 1
Alcibiades on the Polytrack at Keeneland prior to her Breeders' Cup triumph.
The Kentucky-bred is out of the unraced Catienus mare Unfold the Rose, herself a daughter of Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks queen Bail Out Becky. This is the family of multiple Peruvian Group 1 star Fly Lexis Fly, Grade 1-winning sire More Than Ready and fellow Grade 1 scorers Cutlass Reality, Seldom Seen Sue and Ten Most Wanted.