09/27/2014 5:11PM

Stephanie's Kitten punches ticket to BC Cup with Flower Bowl win

Barbara D. Livingston
Stephanie's Kitten scored her first Grade 1 win Saturday since the 2013 Just A Game Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Racing closer to the early pace than she had recently, Stephanie’s Kitten ran down Viva Rafaela in the stretch and drove clear for a convincing victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park.

After running out of ground in five Grade 1 stakes since winning the 2013 Just A Game, Stephanie’s Kitten settled into fourth position with John Velazquez through the early stages, as Viva Rafaela set even fractions of 24.73 seconds, 50.28, and 1:14.62, while prompted by Starstruck and Alterite.

Stephanie’s Kitten moved closer to the leaders three wide around the far turn after a mile in 1:38.40, rallied to catch Viva Rafaela just inside the eighth pole, and edged away to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Abaco, who caught Viva Rafaela for second near the wire.

“We broke well enough, and I wanted to make sure I got a nice position going into the first turn,” said Velazquez. “Once we got that, I was pretty pleased with where I was and kind of bided my time. When I asked her, she responded right away and made me look really good.”

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Stephanie’s Kitten ($4.40), a homebred 5-year-old mare campaigned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.15 seconds on a firm inner turf course. She earned $360,000, in addition to a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

“When the Ramseys gave me this filly, their goal was to get her to the Breeders’ Cup,” said trainer Chad Brown, who also sent out the fourth-place finisher Watsdachances and seventh-place finisher Alterite. “That’s the third race in a row for that that I felt she ran terrific. She was a little unlucky in the Beverly D and Diana, and this time Johnny got away from the gate really well and gave her a beautiful trip. The filly did the rest. We’ve been working backward from the Filly & Mare Turf and believed this filly could get there all year as one of the horses to beat.”