Unable to make it to Royal Ascot as planned in June, Stephanie’s Kitten returns to racing today in the Grade II $200,000 Lake George at Saratoga Race Course.
Trainer Wayne Catalano said Stephanie’s Kitten was under the weather, and he didn’t want to ship her across the world to run against top competition in less than top fitness.
“She wasn’t 100 percent,” he said. “If you’re going to fly her that far, you want her to be 100 percent. She had a little cough, a little mucous. We wanted to make sure she was perfect.”
Stephanie’s Kitten was supposed to run in the Group 1 Coronation on June 22, which features some of the top 3-year-old fillies from
Europe. One of those fillies was Samitar, bred in Great Britain, who finished fourth in the Coronation, 71⁄2 lengths behind winner Fallen For You.
Stephanie’s Kitten, a home-bred owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the Lake George. Samitar is the 3-1 second choice for the 1 1/16-mile turf race, and Centre Court is the 4-1 third choice.
Catalano’s filly has been consistent when she has been in that top fitness he looks for. In her seven career starts, she has never finished outside the trifecta (4-0-3). She won the Edgewood at Churchill Downs at this distance over firm turf in her last start. Last year, she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland.
“She’s a very nice filly. She’s done us proud,” Catalano said. “We’re looking forward to racing her [today]. You know, at Saratoga, it’s not easy, but we’ve got a pretty good filly.”
Catalano said he looked at the entries, but he won’t obsess over how the race may unfold.
“We’ve got a great jockey in Johnny Velazquez, and that’s what I’ve got him up there for,” he said. “We’ll break and see how the race unfolds, and Johnny will take it the best way he knows how.”
The timing of Velazquez’s return from a broken collarbone today couldn’t have been better for the connections of Stephanie’s Kitten. He has been aboard for the filly’s last three wins, and he has not ridden her anywhere but first to the wire and into the winner’s circle.
Samitar will be making her first North American start for trainer Mick Channon and owner Martin Schwartz. Two starts back, she won the Group 1 Irish One Thousand Guineas at Curragh on May 12 in her first start for Schwartz after he bought her in April.
“I’m very excited,” Schwartz told the New York Racing Assocation. “We tried to buy her last fall, and they turned down our offer. I bought her in April. They had such horrendous weather in England — it’s been raining for six months there — and she prefers firmer ground.”
Centre Court has won her last two starts, including the Grade III Regret at Churchill Downs on June 16 in her last under Javier Castellano. Julien Leparoux will ride her this time out.
Castellano lands on 5-1 Medolina in post position 8 for Todd Pletcher. She has won all three of her career starts, all under Castellano, most recently the Tweedside at Belmont on June 24.
Pletcher also will send out Dancing Solo, winner of her last two, including the Grade III Boiling Springs at Monmouth in her last start. Tom Albertrani will saddle Better Lucky — winner of the Grade II Sands Point at Belmont — and New York-bred Elusive Rumour. Somali Lemonade, third in the Boiling Springs, will carry Joel Rosario for trainer Michael Matz.