08/17/2012 2:33PM

Saratoga: Centre Court facing many she beat last time out

Tom Keyser
Centre Court, with Julien Leparoux riding, wins the Lake George by a neck.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.– Centre Court was overshadowed by the presence of the reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies turf winner Stephanie’s Kitten going into last month’s Grade 2 Lake George Stakes. And despite winning the Lake George, Centre Court may be slightly overlooked once again despite returning against virtually the same field in Sunday’s $200,000 Lake Placid at Saratoga.

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Centre Court rallied from far back after the opening half-mile of the Lake George to register a game neck decision over the fast-charging Better Lucky, with Stephanie’s Kitten finishing a troubled fourth as the 2-1 favorite in her first start since early May. As a result, Stephanie’s Kitten is likely to be favored once again in the Grade 2 Lake Placid against a field that also includes the Grade 1-placed Disposablepleasure.

Stephanie’s Kitten “got a really tough trip last time, she’ll be a better horse this time,” said Rusty Arnold, who trains the homebred Centre Court for owner G. Watts Humphrey Jr. “I thought when we ran against her in the last one we were catching her at a vulnerable time. She hadn’t been out in a couple of months. Now everything swings her way. She’s had a race and we’re giving her four pounds. I hate giving the champion weight, but we are. It was either run here and give the weight or wait for the Grade 1 at Belmont,” referring to the Sept. 15 Garden City. “But she was doing so well I wanted to give her another chance to run here.”

Arnold also said he is not overly concerned by the lack of pace in the 1 1/8-mile Lake Placid, run over the inner turf course.

“She’s laid a little closer than some of the others and ran well before,” said Arnold. “When she won the Regret she was fairly close. I would prefer her not to be that close, but she still finished up well and ran a good race that day. She’s doing excellent. She’s going over there as good as she can be. This is a tough bunch, especially with [Disposablepleasure] jumping in from the dirt. But I don’t want to trade places with anybody.”

Stephanie’s Kitten was well placed within easy striking distance of the leaders turning for home in the Lake George but lacked room while looking to make her move near midstretch. She came up a half-length short of Centre Court in her first start since winning the Edgewood at Churchill Downs on May 4.

“I wasn’t disappointed in her first race here, because she was so much the best,” said trainer Wayne Catalano. “She got slammed early, wound up further back than Johnny [Velasquez] wanted, then got slammed again when going for a spot on the inside trying to rally in the stretch. But I like the way things are unfolding for us with her, and I expect her to run much better this next time.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out the uncoupled pair of Medolina and Disposablepleasure. Medolina finished fifth after prompting the early running in the Lake George, and Disposablepleasure returns to the turf for the first time since leaving here a maiden last summer.

Medolina suffered her first defeat in four starts in the Lake George and appears to be the controlling speed in the Lake Placid. Disposablepleasure, second behind Zo Impressive in the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 23, finished far back after a rough trip in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. She has also looked good in two recent half-mile works on the turf.

Better Lucky, winner of the Grade 2 Sands Point, finished a neck shy of catching Centre Court with her late rally in the Lake George. Somali Lemonade was beaten just over a length in that same race despite encountering major traffic issues through much of the stretch.