Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred Stephanie’s Kitten, making her first start in more than six months, outgamed defending champion Hungry Island by a neck to win the 28th running of the $288,750 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile presented by Longines (Grade II) at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Wayne Catalano and ridden by Julien Leparoux, Stephanie’s Kitten covered the mile on a Matt Winn Turf Course labeled as yielding in 1:37.94.
The victory was worth $173,654 and increased Stephanie’s Kitten’s earnings to $1,280,403 with a record of 11-6-0-3 that includes a victory in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GII) here.
Stephanie’s Kitten is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Kitten’s Joy out of the Catienus mare Unfold the Rose.
Frontside and Stopshoppingmaria led the field through fractions of :24.29 and :49.15 with Stephanie’s Kitten at the back of the field of eight. Turning for home, Daisy Devine took over the lead briefly under James Graham.
Hungry Island, with Javier Castellano up, split horses to gain the lead at the eighth pole but was unable to hold off Stephanie’s Kitten on the far outside in the final 100 yards.
Stephanie’s Kitten returned $9.80, $4.40 and $3. Hungry Island returned $3.40 and $2.60 with Daisy Devine finishing 3 ½ lengths back and returning $2.80 to show.
It was two lengths further back to Channel Lady, who was followed in order by Karlovy Vary, Frontside, Drama Drama and Stopshoppingmaria.
CHURCHILL DISTAFF TURF MILE QUOTES
Julien Leparoux, rider of Stephanie’s Kitten, winner: “She closed very good, obviously. Wayne (Catalano) just told me to get out, make her comfortable because there was going to be a good pace for us today. And she finished the last quarter very good. I think the ground maybe is good for us today.” How is the turf course currently? “It’s getting very soft. But it’s safe and it’s good so it’s going to be good racing. The winners will be the ones that like turf like that.”
Wayne Catalano, trainer of Stephanie’s Kitten, winner: “She loves the course. She’s a very nice filly. It’s a great opportunity to train a filly like this. You know, she won a good racetrack (in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2011 at Churchill). We didn’t know how soft it was or what it was, but it looked like it was perfect. We’ve been there before on these kind of trips where we had long layoffs. … We’ve got a pretty good idea how to do it.’’
Javier Castellano, rider of Hungry Island, runner-up: “I don’t think the soft conditions hurt my chances. She handled it well and did the best she could. We were just second best today to a horse we were battling with from the eighth pole on.”
James Graham, rider of Daisy Divine, third: “She didn’t get to dictate the pace like we usually do. I don’t think she needs to be on the lead but she ran a really game race like she always does. She shows up every time and she’s an awesome filly.”
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