Stephanie's Kitten, a leading juvenile filly last year on both the main track and the turf, heads a field of seven 3-year-old fillies in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I) on opening weekend at Keeneland April 7.
A big plus for Stephanie’s Kitten is that she won Keeneland’s signature race last year for juvenile fillies, the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I), at the 1 1/16-mile Ashland distance.
The Ashland will be contested as the 8th race and is scheduled to go off at 4:45 p.m. EDT. It will be carried live on NBC as part of its Saturday racing coverage. The telecast, which will air from 4:30-6 p.m. EDT, also will include the Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial (gr. I) from Aqueduct and the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
Stephanie’s Kitten will be seeking to become the fifth filly to complete an Alcibiades/Ashland double. The other fillies to accomplish the feat are Take Charge Lady (2001-02), Silverbulletday (1998-99), Optimistic Gal (1975-76) and Doubledogdare (1955-56).
Stephanie’s Kitten, who will be making her 2012 debut in the Ashland and breaks from the outside, won or placed in each of her five starts last year, all of which came over grass or synthetic surfaces. The daughter of Kitten's Joy concluded the year with a score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs last November.
Ken Ramsey, the co-breeder/owner of Stephanie’s Kitten with his wife, Sarah, feels the Ashland fits well in the filly’s schedule. Ramsey plans to bypass the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) over dirt at Churchill Downs May 4 and run Stephanie’s Kitten in the Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) at the Royal Ascot meeting in June.
“It’s a way to enable Kitten’s Joy to become a world-class sire,” said Ramsey about the overseas journey.
Stephanie’s Kitten is trained by Wayne Catalano and will be ridden for the first time by Julien Leparoux.
Hard Not to Like, who ran fifth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, also will go into the Ashland without a start this year. The daughter of Hard Spun sports a 4 3/4-length win against males in the Cup and Saucer Stakes on grass at Woodbine last October. Owned by Hillsbrook Farm, Hard Not to Like is trained by Gail Cox. Robby Albarado will ride for the first time.
Lotta Lovin, a Repent filly owned by William Butler, is seeking her fourth straight stakes win. She won the Gowell Stakes at Turfway Park in December and captured the Cincinnati Trophy Stakes and the Valdale Stakes this year at the track. Alan Garcia rides for trainer Mike Maker for the first time.
Dixie Strike, by Dixie Union, is a stakes winner this year and last. Owned by John C. Oxley, Dixie Strike began this year with a win in the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs on turf after ending 2011 with a score in the Ontario Lassie Stakes at Woodbine. In her last start, the Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream, she was moved up to third from fourth because of a disqualification. Dixie Strike, who will break from the inside, is trained by Mark Casse and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.
Heart of Destiny, second in the Darley Alcibiades, won at 1 1/16 miles on grass at Saratoga Race Course last year. In her sole start this year, the daughter of Lion Heart finished second in an allowance/optional claimer on grass at Gulfstream in February. Owned by Hurstland Farm and James H. Greene Jr., Heart of Destiny is trained by James Baker. Edgar Prado will ride.
The two remaining members in the field are Goldrush Girl (by Political Force) and Karlovy Vary (by Dynaformer), each of whom won an allowance/optional claimer at Gulfstream this year. Goldrush Girl was second in the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill last fall.
$500,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I, Race 8, 4:45 p.m.) 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Polytrack)
Post., Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Dixie Strike, J Lezcano, M E Casse
2. Hard Not to Like, R Albarado, G Cox
3. Heart of Destiny, E S Prado, J E Baker
4. Karlovy Vary, J Graham, G R Arnold II
5. Goldrush Girl, M R Cruz, K G McPeek
6. Lotta Lovin, A Garcia, M J Maker
7. Stephanie’s Kitten, J R Leparoux, W M Catalano
Each filly will carry 121 pounds