With many members of the Runnymede Farm team on hand at Churchill Downs, Sweet Cat made them proud with a strong third in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2) while stamping herself as among the best of her generation.
The daughter of Kitten’s Joy out of our mare Claire’s Smile, by Carson City, rated just off the pace set by her stablemate in the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, Stopshoppingmaria, getting within a half-length after six furlongs in the one-mile event.
Neither frontrunner could withstand the late run of Stephanie’s Kitten, a Grade 1 winner who rallied from sixth to gain victory by three-quarters of a length from Stopshoppingmaria. Sweet Cat crossed the finish line 1 ¼ lengths back in third and a neck in front of Coolmore’s fourth-placed Up.
“The race was won or lost for us turning for home; I just couldn’t quite quicken with the other two fillies,” said Sweet Cat’s jockey Garrett Gomez. “I hit a little flat spot—it’s a little soft (on the turf course). She handled the ground real well the entire way around, but I hit that spot and then in the last 150 yards, she just couldn’t keep pace. Down toward the wire, she was still there and staying on well.”
Among those finishing behind Sweet Cat were French Group 1 winner Elusive Kate, the race favorite who was eighth; Somali Lemonade, who won the Jessamine Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in which Sweet Cat was second and who finished sixth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf after racing seven-wide from post 14; and Miss Grillo Stakes winner (G3) Pure Gossip, who was seventh.
Pletcher purchased Sweet Cat for $95,000 from Runnymede’s 2010 consignment to the Keeneland September yearling sale. She finished second in her career debut at Saratoga and returned during that meet to win a maiden special weight race at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf while racing in Pletcher's own silks.
Following that performance, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners acquired the filly and she has earned her stakes credentials in the Breeders’ Cup and the Jessamine for that ownership. She has hit the board in all four of her starts and has earned $169,000 to date.
Sweet Cat was bred by Runnymede and farm Chairman Catesby W. Clay. Her weanling half brother, by successful freshman sire Hard Spun, was entered in the Keeneland November breeding stock sale but was withdrawn and will instead be offered for sale as a yearling.
Runnymede also celebrated at the Breeders’ Cup when Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Farraaj ran in similar style to Sweet Cat and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) behind winner Wrote and runner-up Excaper.
Farraaj, a colt by Dubai Destination, is from the immediate female family of Wendy Vaala, a broodmare Runnymede acquired this spring.
Wendy Vaala is a daughter of outstanding producer Balidaress and a half sister to three Group 1 winners, including English and Irish champion Park Appeal, dam of Group 1 winner and important sire Cape Cross. Farraaj was produced by the Nureyev mare Pastorale, a daughter of Park Appeal and granddaughter of Balidaress.