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Stephanie's Kitten returns in Ashland

  • Stephanie's Kitten (Breeders' Cup Ltd.)

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies victress Stephanie's Kitten returns to competition on Saturday when taking on six rivals in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland. The bay daughter of Kitten's Joy is seeking to become just the fifth filly to complete an Alcibiades-Ashland double after taking the former race in October during her juvenile campaign.

Stephanie's Kitten is lightly raced with just five career starts to date. The Wayne Catalano pupil broke her maiden on Arlington Park's grass in her second start, then shipped to Woodbine to be third in the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes. The Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred then traveled back to the United States and headed to Keeneland, where she captured the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes on the Polytrack.

Stephanie's Kitten closed out her two-year-old season in style when rallying to add the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf to her resume at Churchill Downs. Though she hasn't started since that November 4 contest, the filly has been working up a storm since mid-February.

Stephanie's Kitten will join Take Charge Lady (2001-02), Silverbulletday (1998-99), Optimistic Gal (1975-76) and Doubledogdare (1955-56) if she succeeds in completing the Alcibiades-Ashland double. Among those looking to prevent Stephanie's Kitten from joining such a distinguished group are Dixie Strike and Hard Not to Like.

The former made her first four career starts on the Polytrack at Woodbine, breaking her maiden and posting a 5 1/2-length decision in the Ontario Lassie Stakes while also running second in the Princess Elizabeth and Musoka Stakes. Dixie Strike tried turf for the first time in the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs in her seasonal bow and just got her nose down on the line first to win on that occasion.

The Dixie Union filly then attempted the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes and wound up fourth, placed third via disqualification, in her most recent start. Jose Lezcano was aboard for those two turf starts and will try to guide his mount back to the winner's circle on Saturday.

Hard Not to Like was just three lengths behind Stephanie's Kitten when fifth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf last November, and like her rival is returning in this 1 1/16-mile affair off the Breeders' Cup. Trainer Gail Cox shipped the Hard Spun gray lass into Churchill Downs from her homebase of Woodbine, where Hard Not to Like scored in the Cup and Saucer Stakes at the Ashland distance. Robby Albarado will be in the irons for the first time aboard the sophomore miss.

Lotta Lovin captured her last three, all stakes, over Turfway Park's Polytrack by a combined 11 lengths and posted bullet works at Trackside Training Center in her last pair of moves. Alan Garcia has the call aboard the Repent daughter.

The Ashland field is completed by Heart of Destiny, runner-up in last year's Alcibiades in her only attempt on a synthetic track; turf competitor Karlovy Vary; and Goldrush Girl, a well-beaten second in last season's Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes.

The Ashland will be carried live on NBC as part of its Saturday racing coverage. The telecast, which will air from 4:30-6 p.m. (EST), will also include the Grade 1 Wood Memorial from Aqueduct and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in California.

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