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Stephanie's Kitten roars home in Alcibiades
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Stephanie's Kitten came motoring down the middle of the track to take Friday's Grade 1, $400,000 Alcibiades Stakes on Keeneland's opening day. The bay lass was sent off at 9-1 in the full field and completed 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack in 1:43 under jockey John Velazquez.
"Win and in, and we'll be in," said Ken Ramsey, referring to Stephanie's Kitten earning an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with the victory. "She's named after my granddaughter, Stephanie Esther Ramsey. This could be the best of the litter, who knows?"
It was a mad dash down the stretch when the gates opened in front of the picturesque track's grandstand, but Cheerleader and On Fire Baby quickly pulled to the front, duking it out through splits of :23 1/5, :47 and 1:11 4/5. All the while, Stephanie's Kitten was biding her time in midpack racing just to the outside of Flashy Lassie.
Nearing the turn, the juvenile miss moved up between horses before angling out rounding the turn. With Velazquez urging her on, Stephanie's Kitten easily reeled in Heart of Destiny and Putthebabiesdown, who had grabbed command entering the stretch. Stephanie's Kitten was 1 1/2 lengths in front of Hearty of Destiny on the wire with Putthebabiesdown another neck behind in third.
"(Trainer) Wayne (Catalano) said, 'You're riding a really good horse, just ride like it. Take your time with her, try to save some ground. When you're ready to go, just make your move and get her ready to run.' She responded really good," Velazquez said.
Stephanie's Kitten paid $21.60, $10.40 and $6.80 for the win, and saw her lifetime earnings shoot to $277,800. The filly's scorecard now reads 4-2-0-2.
Frolic's Revenge completed the superfecta and was followed under the line by On Fire Baby, And Why Not, 2-1 favorite Tu Endie Wei, New Wave, Ann of the Dance, Egg Drop, Venetian Sonata, Flashy Lassie and Cheerleader. Sweet Cat and Tavern on the Bay were both scratched.
"I don't know if we'll go on to the Breeders' Cup; that's up to the boss (owner Brereton Jones)," said Tu Endie Wei's trainer, Reade Baker. "She really got fired up in the gate. Your stalls are much wider and make a lot more noise than ours in Canada and she didn't like it."
"She got very antsy in the gate," jockey James McAleney agreed. "At about the half-mile mark she was ready to run, but (the gate) had already taken too much out of her. I have a ton of respect for this filly. You didn't get to see what she can do yet, but you will some day."
The Kentucky-bred Stephanie's Kitten earned her second career win in the Alcibiades. She finished third in her July 9 career debut on Arlington Park's Polytrack before scoring against maiden rivals while trying turf next out on August 5. Catalano shipped his pupil to Woodbine for her next start, the Grade 3 Natalma, and the daughter of Kitten's Joy wound up third on that day.
"I spoke with the team, Mark (Partridge) from the farm and Mr. Ramsey. We had a little conference call," Catalano explained the decision to run Stephanie's Kitten in the Alcibiades rather than the Grade 3 Jessamine on Keeneland's turf Thursday. "I thought running here would give us a little more time until Breeders' Cup day. She's a little better on the grass, but she was training so well on the Polytrack. We took a shot."
Stephanie's Kitten RNAed twice in the sales ring, failing to meet her reserve with a final bid of $30,000 at last year's Keeneland September and $17,000 in this season's OBS Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training. She is out of the unraced Catienus mare Unfold the Rose, who is herself a daughter of Grade 1 heroine Bail Out Becky (Red Ransom).