There is a certain story line mentioned repeatedly heading into this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships. It is the tale of a veteran bay mare who was a Breeders' Cup winner as a juvenile, who is still cranking out top-level victories years after the fact, who is back in the spotlight thanks in part to a sale that didn't happen in the Fasig-Tipton pavilion last November.
The above yarn has been told countless times about dual champion and Breeders' Cup Classic contender Beholder. It is not a plot she has exclusive rights over, however.
Though her version has been more quiet, the expected presence of Stephanie's Kitten in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf is no less one to be feted.
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Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred daughter of Kitten's Joy has been the definition of enduring quality over her 24-race career. Included in her 10 wins and more than $3 million in earnings is the remarkable distinction of Stephanie's Kitten being a Grade I winner at ages 2, 4, 5, and this her 6-year-old campaign.
In 2011, the mare named for one of the Ramseys' granddaughters gave her owners their second Breeders' Cup triumph when she took the Juvenile Fillies Turf. She was denied a second Breeders' Cup win last season when she was the runner-up in the Filly and Mare Turf, but she heads into this year's edition off a 11/2-length victory in the Grade I Flower Bowl Stakes over a soft turf at Belmont Park on Oct. 3.
That she is back in trainer Chad Brown's barn this year is a stroke of fate in itself. Stephanie's Kitten went through the ring at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton November Sale and brought a final bid of $3,950,000, below the reserve of $4 million Ramsey had put on her.
"She's in a league by herself — when you win over $3 million and do as well as she has, hopefully becoming a second-time Breeders' Cup winner this weekend," said Ken Ramsey, who also has multiple Grade I winner Big Blue Kitten among the favorites in the Breeders' Cup Turf, defending Turf Sprint winner Bobby's Kitten, Sapphire Kitten in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Camelot Kitten in the Juvenile Turf. "Not getting bought last year was sort of a blessing in disguise, kind of like it was for Beholder."
Stephanie's Kitten is entered in this year's Fasig-Tipton November Sale which will take place Sunday. Despite his emotional angst, Ramsey says this time, he is ready to let the mare he describes as a "family pet" change hands.
"It's a financial decision. We just can't afford to have that kind of valuable mare," Ramsey said. "I know there are a few big buyers out there looking for a mare that has done what she has."
Beholder walks shedrow, Frosted takes first spin
Two-time Breeders' Cup winner Beholder was ridden for half an hour under Barn 60's shedrow Wednesday morning, shunning the rainy weather and the sloppy main track.
Trainer Richard Mandella said the 5-year-old mare will go to the main track to gallop Thursday and would school in the paddock during race day.
Fellow Classic contender Frosted braved the rain and went to the Keeneland track for the first time since arriving from New York on Tuesday.
"We just went once around and came back. We're happy," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "Tomorrow we'll play it by ear. We might do the same thing. If the track is better we might back up and gallop a mile and three-eighths."