Trapdoors are supposed to do harm when they open.
In the Lake George on July 25, John Velazquez encountered one that cost him the race when it closed.
On Sunday, the Hall of Fame jockey didn’t leave anything to the element of surprise, confidently and patiently guiding Stephanie’s Kitten through a hole off the hedge, and she did the rest, rocketing the final furlong in 11.47 to win the Grade II Lake Placid at Saratoga Race Course.
The Lake Placid field included five back from the Lake George and a dirt filly, Disposablepleasure.
A crackling finish kick in the Lake George by Stephanie’s Kitten, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf winner, went to waste because she was hindered just enough at the eighth pole by the tiring Medolina and jockey Javier Castellano to leave her a half-length short in a blanket finish.
On Sunday, Velazquez found himself on the hedge again, but used a more measured angle out to find clear running room, and even though it came late in the race, Stephanie’s Kitten’s kick was well fast enough to get her past Centre Court in the final strides to win by a half-length.
“You get lucky, sometimes; sometimes, you don’t,” Velazquez said. “I was a little more cautious about today taking the spot. Last time, the spot was there and I went into it without any hesitation, and Javier came back out again and the spot closed. Today, I took my time and thought, ‘Let me see where I’m going to go, if I’m going to go between them or go around them.’ I went little by little, I didn’t gun it into a spot.”
Although the race shaped up almost identically for Stephanie’s Kitten as it had in the Lake George, trainer Wayne Catalano said he didn’t get a sense of deja vu.
“When you’ve got Johnny Velazquez up, you cannot worry about that,” he said. “Sometimes, you’re going to get a trip like we got last time. Most of the time, you get this kind of trip. Last time, he had [Medolina] in front, he knew he was going to go out, he went for that spot, and the inside came out. One split second, he goes to the inside, it’s just the way it worked out.”
Velazquez contribution to the victory was subtle, whereas Stephanie’s Kitten’s was not.
Sent off as the even-money favorite, she settled comfortably along the hedge in third behind Medolina and Centre Court, the Lake George winner, then when Velazquez got her out into open space and asked for the kick, she delivered in dazzling fashion, with no one threatening her on the outside.
“I worked my way out until I finally got out at the eighth pole, and she responded right away. Great effort by her,” Velazquez said. “That was incredible. I know she has it in her. As soon as I pulled out, she went to daylight and I hit her with the whip. She responded right away, and I was very impressed with the way that she did it.”
“That was amazing,” Catalano said. “She’s got a heck of a kick. I don’t know it was 11 and two. That’s pretty good.”
Centre Court and jockey Julien Leparoux had no excuses.
She stalked Medolina and got past her in deep stretch to lead for a moment, only to be caught by Stephanie’s Kitten, who carried four pounds less.
Due to a beer glass giveaway, attendance was 58,701.