Updated on 05/04/2012 5:10PM

Churchill Downs: Stephanie's Kitten best in Edgewood

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Tom Keyser
Stephanie's Kitten (3), with John Velazquez riding, sets a stakes record in the Edgewood.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Stephanie’s Kitten likely punched her overseas ticket to Royal Ascot’s Group 1 Coronation Stakes June 22 with an authoritative, stakes-record-setting victory in $184,800 Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs on Friday’s Kentucky Oaks undercard.

The even-money favorite, Stephanie’s Kitten gave her backers a brief moment of anxiety entering the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile Edgewood, bumping in heavy traffic, but once clear of that congestion, was confidently handled and always appeared to have those fillies in front of her well within range of her closing kick.

Well placed just off the leaders in fourth down the backstretch, as Welcome Dance set fractions of 23.85 seconds, and 47.35, and 1:11.10 on a firm Churchill Downs turf Course, the winner launched her move on the second turn and quickly made her presence felt.

She took command from Welcome Dance in early stretch, drew clear, and was never threatened by a late-closing Firehouse Red, who rallied to grab the runner-up spot. She won by two lengths.

John Velazquez - who rode Stephanie’s Kitten to her two biggest victories last year: the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland and Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs – was once again in the saddle, after being unable to ride her when she made her seasonal debut when third in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland Apr. 7.

He credited the winner for showing determination in tight quarters roughly a quarter mile into the race. “She got knocked sideways on the turn,” he said.

Stephanie’s Kitten, a homebred daughter of Kitten’s Joy owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, raced 1 1/16 miles in a stakes-record 1:40.94. She paid $4.

Questioned after the race if England’s prestigious Royal Ascot meet was still the target, trainer Wayne Catalano said, “That’s been the plan the whole time. So far it’s been working for us.”

Runner-up Firehouse Red, who remained free of much of the early congestion into the first turn, finished strongest at the end of the Edgewood and was 1 3/4 lengths ahead of pacesetting Welcome Dance.

Three horses were scratched: Disposablepleasure, Anna Sophia, and Matching Skies.