06/08/2013 4:25PM

Belmont Park: Stephanie's Kitten gets through to victory in Just a Game

Barbara D. Livingston
Stephanie's Kitten (right) outfinishes Better Lucky in the Just a Game after cutting the corner entering the stretch.

ELMONT, N.Y. - John Velazquez knew Stephanie's Kitten was handling the yielding Widener turf course at Belmont Park very well in Saturday's Grade 1 Just A Game Stakes. It was just a matter of whether he would be able to find some running room when the appropriate time came.

With a quarter-mile left to run, the pacesetting Mizdirection drifted out a path or two and Velazquez shot Stephanie's Kitten on through the opening, then outfinished Better Lucky to win the $500,000 Just A Game by a half-length.

[BELMONT STAKES DAY: Video replays and race results]

It was three lengths back to Hungry Island in third. She was followed in the order of finish by the 5-2 favorite, Centre Court, Mizdirection, and the European import Laugh Out Loud. Dayatthespa, one of five Grade 1 winners entered in the race, scratched because of the soft ground.

The win was the second straight this year and seventh from 12 career starts for Stephanie's Kitten, a 4-year-old daughter of Kitten's Joy owned and bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trained by Wayne Catalano.

"I feel like she's the number-one filly in the United States, what do you think?" Ramsey said immediately after the race.

That case can be made.

Velazquez had Stephanie's Kitten in fifth position, about six lengths off the pace, while Mizdirection, under Mike Smith set fractions of 24.50 seconds and 48.13 for the half-mile.

Velazquez, believing Centre Court was the one to beat, kept his filly inside of her and running with her before it was time to make his move.

After getting through the opening in upper stretch, Stephanie's Kitten hooked up with Better Lucky, who was getting a clear three-wide trip under Joel Rosario. Stephanie's Kitten was able to outkick that rival and complete the mile 1:36.27 over yielding turf. She returned $8 as the co-second choice.

Velazquez, who improved his record to 5 wins from 7 starts aboard Stephanie's Kitten, said he knew his filly wouldn't back down from a prolonged stretch fight.

"Definitely, she's been like that in the past," Velazquez said. "She's a very brave filly - very brave."

Better Lucky, the longest shot in the field at 11-1, ran a game race, but was simply second best.

"The winner cut the corner on us, she ran game, and we got beat a [half-length]," trainer Tom Albertrani said. "No excuses."


lyons_john More than 1 year ago
another horrible ride by Leparoux -- he had that inside position -- left the rail open for some reason and the Kitten took it -- and the race -- he should have held his ground and made the Kitten be the one stuck behind a wall at the top of the stretch -- why oh why does he make such terrible decisions???????
Kalar Walters More than 1 year ago
Did I miss something or did Mike Smith not lay a hand on Mizdirection in the last 1/4? I didn't bet this race so there's no sour grapes here. I was just watching the replay and noticed no action by Mike other than shaking the reins. Just curious.
Anthony More than 1 year ago
Horrible ride by Leparoux. Plenty of time to dive inside to take rail on far turn but watches Kitten come thru on inside and then falls inline on rail behind her. I didn't even bet him, but tired of his tactical errors. Total sophomoric rides from him frequently. WAY overrated jock. Stewards should give him his 5lb bug back. Oldest rookie on circuit.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Leap-a-Roo, my favorite mucksack.
Kenny More than 1 year ago
plenty of sour grapes here, Leparoux is horrendous, I needed Better Lucky but SK never shoulda got through inside
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Whether Ramsey is correct that Stephanie's Kitten is the best turf female, the problem for her is that there isn't a Breeder's Cup race for turf females at a mile. She'll either have to run in the BC Mile vs. males, which she has no shot of winning, or stretch out to 10 furlongs for the Filly and Mare Turf. And at 10 furlongs, Marketing Mix is the best female turf horse in North America.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
It seems like Stephanie's Kitten always gets those rail skimming trips. She's a really, really good filly.
Kyri Freeman More than 1 year ago
Mizdirection clearly didn't handle the ground -- bobbled visibly several times. I appreciate her connections stepping out of her comfort zone when there was a race at Hollywood today she could have won at 1-5! It was a sporting effort but in future I suspect they'll keep her on fast ground. In the meantime, Stephanie's Kitten did handle the ground and ran a game race to win. She has really held her form well.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
And they will keep her sprinting, at least against grade 1 types. Her win in the gr.2 Buena Vista was aided by a soft pace and competition more fitting for a listed stakes; she didn't have to face Tiz Flirtatious, Lady of Shamrock, or even Quiet Oasis in the Buena Vista, and of those 3 only Tiz Flirtatious could run with the Eastern gals Mizdirection faced today..
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Give her a shot late and she wins. Tough, tough Filly.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Congrats Stephanie's Kitten, Johnny V and all the connections. Excellent race.