01/06/2015 1:26PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Stephanie's Kitten

Tom Keyser

Nationwide in 2014, Stephanie’s Kitten commanded attention in the filly-and-mare turf division, running in six consecutive Grade 1 races in Kentucky, New York, and California.

Along the way, she lost more than she won, but her overall campaign was one of the finest of the year, earning a nomination for the Eclipse Award in the female turf category. When it meant the most, in the major stakes of the autumn, voters were left with a favorable impression of Stephanie’s Kitten.

One of the top 2-year-old fillies of 2011, the year she won consecutive Grade 1 races in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs, Stephanie’s Kitten was a six-time stakes winner at the start of 2014.

The season would be her first with trainer Chad Brown. In the fall of 2013, owners and breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey moved the filly to Brown from Wayne Catalano’s stable.

A 5-year-old mare in 2014, Stephanie’s Kitten did not start until the spring meeting at Keeneland, and her early-season races did not equal previous accomplishments. Stephanie’s Kitten was eighth in the $300,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes in April, never reaching contention. She was fifth after a wide rally in the $750,000 Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7.

For the rest of the season, Stephanie’s Kitten was never worse than second.

In the $500,000 Diana Stakes at Saratoga on July 19, Stephanie’s Kitten overcame trouble at the start to rally wide and finish second, a neck behind Somali Lemonade. While that was a difficult loss, it was not as tough as her outing in the $750,000 Beverly D. at Arlington Park on Aug. 16.
Last of 11 on the turn, Stephanie’s Kitten unleashed a remarkable rally that carried her to second at the finish, missing out by three-quarters of a length to Euro Charline.

“She ran terrific, although she had another challenging trip,” Brown said a day after the race. “To me, she looked like she might have been best, but she couldn’t get through. But that’s turf racing.”

Brown is based at Belmont Park in the autumn, and Stephanie’s Kitten was his primary runner in a field of eight in the Flower Bowl Invitational on Sept. 27. Sent off at 6-5, Stephanie’s Kitten ran beautifully, closing from fifth on the turn under jockey John Velazquez to win by a convincing 1 1/4 lengths over Abaco.

“That’s the third race in a row that I felt she ran terrific,” Brown said after the race. “This time, Johnny got away from the gate really well and gave her a beautiful trip.”

After the Flower Bowl, Brown said the plan for the rest of 2014 was to have Stephanie’s Kitten ready for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.

“We’ve been working backward from the Filly and Mare Turf and believed this filly could get there all year as one of the horses to beat,” he said.
Bettors seemed to agree. Stephanie’s Kitten was the 9-2 second choice behind the European shipper Dank, the winner of the 2013 BC Filly and Mare Turf. This time, the day belonged to Brown. Dayatthespa skipped along in front, while Stephanie’s Kitten rallied from eighth in a field of 11. In the stretch, Stephanie’s Kitten was sixth with a furlong to go and missed catching Dayatthespa by 1 1/4 lengths, finishing second.

“I just wish there could be two winners,” Brown said.

A few days later, Stephanie’s Kitten was offered at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky sale, but Ken Ramsey bought her back for $3.95 million. He wanted $4 million or more, he said.

Stephanie’s Kitten is scheduled to continue racing with Brown in 2015.