10/31/2015 2:55PM

Stephanie's Kitten proves best in Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf

Nikki Sherman
Stephanie's Kitten and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. win the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf by 1 1/4 lengths Saturday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Stephanie’s Kitten has proven to be a top-class horse all over the country in her distinguished career. But in her home state of Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup, she has proven downright unbeatable.

Four years after taking the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs, she won Saturday’s $2 million, Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Keeneland, outrunning the heavily favored European invader Legatissimo by 1 1/4 lengths.

Last early in the field of 10, reduced by the scratches of Hard Not to Like and Talmada, Stephanie’s Kitten looked like she might have too much to overcome early in the Filly and Mare Turf, as Secret Gesture took the lead by default over a “good” course and set soft fractions of 49.26 seconds and 1:13.94 in the 1 3/16-mile race.

But other rivals were having problems of their own, most notably Legatissimo, who stumbled at the start, costing herself some early position, while another top European, Miss France, was steadied when keen passing the stands for the first time.

Early pace aside, things fell in place for Stephanie’s Kitten with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. He was able to advance with her through traffic, losing less ground on the second turn than Legatissimo, who rallied from midpack on the outside.

Stephanie’s Kitten proved the stronger finisher of the two in the lane, though in the closing yards, she drifted out, causing Ryan Moore on Legatissimo to steady briefly. The race appeared to be decided at that late stage, however, and the stewards never posted an inquiry.

She was “so relaxed, inside saving ground,” said Ortiz. “When I asked at the quarter pole, she took off.”

A Kentucky-bred daughter of Kitten’s Joy, Stephanie’s Kitten raced 1 3/16 miles in 1:56.22 and paid $17.60.

Legatissimo ran well in defeat, said her trainer, David Wachman, who refused to make excuses. “I was pleased with her run,” he said. “She met a good horse today.”

Queen’s Jewel rallied belatedly to be third, a neck in front of Sentiero Italia, with Photo Call, who had taken a brief lead in midstretch, a head farther back in fifth.

Winning trainer Chad Brown credited Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the owners and breeders of Stephanie’s Kitten, for bringing her back to race this year at age 6 after she failed to meet her reserve last November at Fasig-Tipton, where bidding stopped at $3.95 million.

“They were rewarded today,” he said. “Big race today, just miles from where she was born.”

She is again scheduled to sell at Fasig-Tipton at Sunday night’s sale, but immediately after the race, Ken Ramsey seemed to be wavering on that decision with the mare, who is named after a granddaughter.

Her win gave Brown his seventh career Breeders’ Cup victory, the Ramseys their fourth, and Ortiz his second.