Stephanie’s Kitten Sneaks Through for G1 Longines Just a Game Victory

Story by: Jenny Kellner


Stephanie’s Kitten dove through an opening on the rail at the top of the stretch and outkicked Better Lucky to the wire to win Saturday’s 20th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game for turf fillies and mares at Belmont Park on the undercard of the Belmont Stakes.

Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Stephanie’s Kitten enjoyed a ground-saving trip through the early going as Mizdirection was hounded by Laugh Out Loud through fractions of 24.50, 48.13 and 1:12.55 over the yielding turf course. As the first two straightened for home, Velazquez pounced on the opening with Stephanie’s Kitten, while Better Lucky sailed four wide, setting up a stretch-long duel that ended in a half-length decision.

The winning time for a mile was 1:36.27.

“We were in the No. 2 hole and when the hole opened up and Johnny stuck her head in there, I was happy with it, I really was,” said trainer Wayne Catalano.

The victory was the second in as many starts this year for Stephanie’s Kitten, who on May 4 won the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs. A 4-year-old daughter of Kitten’s Joy bred and owned by Sarah and Kenneth Ramsey, Stephanie’s Kitten is now 7-0-3 from 12 career starts, and counts among her graded stakes wins the Grade 2 Woodford Reserve Lake Placid at Saratoga Race Course, the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Grade 1 Alcibiades.

“I love this filly,” said Velazquez, who has been aboard for five of her victories. “It’s incredible that she keeps coming back year after year and does this.”

Sent off at 3-1, Stephanie’s Kitten returned $8.00 for a $2 win bet, and with the winner’s purse of $300,000 now has earned $1,580,404.

Hungry Island closed for third, three lengths back, and was followed under the wire by favored Centre Court, Mizdirection, and Laugh Out Loud.

“The ground is a little too soft [for her],” said Julien Leparoux, aboard the beaten favorite. “She didn’t have the same kick at the end. She was in a good spot, just no kick.”