Updated on 05/04/2013 3:06PM

Distaff Turf Mile: Stephanie's Kitten goes last to first to nip Hungry Island

Barbara D. Livingston
Stephanie's Kitten (left) gets up to beat Hungry Island in the Distaff Turf Mile.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Stephanie’s Kitten, away from the races for seven months, returned with a flourish, rallying from last under Julien Leparoux to win Saturday’s Grade 2, $288,750 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs.

Returning to her favorite course, and getting the kind of ground over which she has excelled, Stephanie’s Kitten rallied five wide down the lane and outfinished 2-1 favorite Hungry Island to win by a neck. It was three lengths back to Daisy Devine in third.
The win kept owner-breeder Ken Ramsey on a major roll this spring in Kentucky.

“When it rains, it pours,” Ramsey said in the winner’s circle while rain poured down on his head.

It was the sixth win from 11 starts for Stephanie’s Kitten, a 4-year-old daughter of Kitten’s Joy who is now 3 for 3 over the Churchill Downs turf course.

Stephanie’s Kitten hadn’t run since finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland on Oct. 13. Trainer Wayne Catalano thought he had her tight enough for her return, but admitted to being a little concerned when the turf course came up yielding due to day-long showers.

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“I was very confident going in I had her fit,” Catalano said. “She worked very well, she did everything I wanted to do. We were a little concerned with the track – she’s won on a good track. How soft it was was a little bit of a concern, but not much when you got a good horse like that.”

Leparoux had Stephanie’s Kitten last of seven while Frontside set fractions of 24.29 seconds for the quarter and 49.15 for the half-mile.
Daisy Devine had made an early three-wide move, and turning into the stretch Hungry Island, under Javier Castellano, and Stephanie’s Kitten also moved into contention.

In midstretch, Hungry Island split horses, but Stephanie’s Kitten had all the momentum and outkicked her to the wire.

Stephanie’s Kitten covered the mile in 1:37.96 and returned $9.80 to win as the third choice.

“She finished the last quarter very good,” said Leparoux, who won his third race on the card. “I think the ground is good for us today. The way she won, it was perfect.”

Castellano said his filly “exploded” down the lane, but “I got beat by a better horse today.”

Catalano said he would consider running Stephanie’s Kitten in the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont on June 8.