For the better part of the last 81/2 months, trainer Chad Brown and his staff have consistently been reminded why the joy that can come with their jobs often outweighs the strain needed to produce it.
If he doesn't win another race this year, Brown has already shattered his previous best for single-season earnings with more than $7.8 million. In a 24-hour span this past Sunday and Monday, Brown added to his Breeders' Cup lineup as he saddled three juveniles to victories in graded stakes.
"The thing we are most proud of at our barn is it has been a great year from start to finish," Brown said. "We keep trying to improve from year to year, learn from our mistakes and try to fine-tune this thing to where we compete in other areas and get as many horses to the Breeders' Cup for our clients as we can."
The depth of Brown's program will be exhibited in Saturday's Grade I, $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup over the Keeneland turf when he saddles one filly who has become a proven force on both sides of the ocean and another who has harnessed her high-spirited ways for good.
Grade I winner Samitar and graded stakes victor Dayatthespa give the already red-hot Brown a formidable two-pronged attack for the 11⁄8-mile Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, a race that also features Grade I winner Stephanie's Kitten in the field of eight 3-year-old fillies.
Like his mentor, the late Bobby Frankel, Brown has a particularly deft hand when it comes to managing turf females. He's also brought along the likes of champion Stacelita and Grade I winner Zagora.
Samitar and Dayatthespa have required their own careful management. In just her second start since coming over from Europe, Martin Schwartz's Samitar — winner of the Group I Irish One Thousand Guineas in May — captured the Grade I Garden City Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 15.
Among the traits Brown believes has helped the daughter of Rock of Gibraltar make her adjustment as quickly as she has is her athleticism and tenacity. Both came through when she handled the 11⁄8-mile distance of the Garden City, rallying to win by a head over fellow QEII entrant Somali Lemonade.
"She's got tactical speed where she can be placed wherever the rider wants and has a good turn of foot," Brown said. "In both of her starts here in the states, she was in a battle late in the race and showed a lot of heart late in the race all the way to the wire. She's a real trier."
If Samitar does reach the wire first Saturday, running down Dayatthespa will likely be part of the equation.
The temperamental daughter of City Zip has just two losses in seven career starts and has been most effective carrying her speed up front. After being briefly sidelined with a hind-end issue following her victory in the Grade III Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland in April, Dayatthespa returned to win the Riskaverse Stakes at Saratoga, her fourth consecutive triumph.
Like her stablemate, Dayatthespa also owns a win going 11⁄8 miles, capturing the Grade III Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream in March.
"She still is a high-strung horse and we try not to take too much of that away from her because that is her personality," Brown said. "I try and stay out of these horses' way once they identify themselves who they are.
"She does have more experience now ... so I would expect her to handle the Keeneland experience better the second time around."
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Stephanie's Kitten is another who has conquered the QEII's distance, winning the Grade II Lake Placid Stakes last time out over Centre Court, who is also back for a run in the last Grade I test of the Keeneland Fall Meet.
Stephanie's Kitten will likely be bound for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf with a win, so Saturday essentially is the Breeders' Cup for Brown's duo.
"I'm not seeing a 1¼ miles in the cards for them so I wouldn't be bullish on trying to prove that in the race like the Filly and Mare Turf," Brown said. "I see a number of horses who have a right to win this race if they bring their 'A' game. I'm fortunate enough to have two of them."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com.