Heading the field for the Miss Grillo is 3-1 morning-line favorite Granny Mc's Kitten, who broke her maiden with a good-looking 1 ¾-length victory in the P.G. Johnson on August 28 at Saratoga Race Course. Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the homebred daughter of Kitten's Joy missed by a nose in her debut on July 22 after breaking a tad slow.
"She continues to grow and put on weight as she races, which is always a good sign in a young horse," said Brown of Granny Mc's Kitten, who has had three works since the 1 1/16-mile P. G. Johnson, most recently breezing five furlongs on the turf in 1:00.12 on September 23 at Belmont. "I expect continued improvement as the fall progresses."
Joining her in the starting gate from Brown's barn will be French import Testa Rossi, who broke her maiden this spring at Lyon-Parilly and next added a pair of allowance victories at six and seven furlongs in June and July. The Dr Fong filly arrived in the United States in August and has had five works, most recently a half-mile breeze in 50.94 on Sunday. She will run on Lasix for the first time Sunday.
"She's a good-looking filly," said Brown, who took last year's Miss Grillo with Watsdachances, next second in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and the 2008 edition with Maram, subsequent winner of the inaugural Juvenile Fillies Turf. "She has a lot of scope to her and she should handle the extra distance."
Javier Castellano will be aboard Granny Mc's Kitten, high weight under 121 pounds from post position 10, and Jose Lezcano will ride Testa Rossi, the morning-line second choice at 7-2, from post position 8.
Kiaran McLaughlin will saddle the Darley/Godolphin entry of Dancing House and Sky Painter, listed at 5-1 on the morning line in the Miss Grillo.
Third in the Grade 1 Spinaway last time out, Dancing House will be making her turf debut in the Miss Grillo. The Tapit filly broke her maiden going six furlongs on July 31 at Saratoga, coming from off the pace to win by a head.
"She's bred for turf and we decided to make sure we didn't waste her 2-year-old year, she might really be good on the turf," said McLaughlin. "We worked her on the turf [47 1/5] at Oklahoma and she really liked it. We decided to try it because we have everything to gain and not a lot to lose. If she loves it, we'll go onto the Breeders' Cup [Juvenile Fillies Turf]; if she hates it, we'll blame it on the turf and go back to dirt."
Sky Painter, a daughter of Street Cry, was a last-to-first maiden winner at 5 ½ furlongs in August.
"She's bred to stretch out," said McLaughin of Sky Painter, who is out of the Sky Mesa mare Skylighter. "She ran well on the turf up there and we've been pointing for this since she broke her maiden. She's a nice filly and we think she'll run well."
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Dancing House from post position 9 while Luis Saez will be in the irons for Sky Painter, who drew post position 6.
While his fillies may appear more accomplished, Brown is equally confident in his Pilgrim starters, Shadow Banking and Bobby's Kitten. Owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, Shadow Banking earned an 81 Beyer Speed Figure for his 6 ¼-length maiden victory on September 11 at Belmont, while Bobby's Kitten, a Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred son of Kitten's Joy, was a 2 ¾-length maiden winner second time out at Saratoga.
"I think they're a pretty formidable duo," said Brown of Shadow Banking, the 5-2 favorite on the morning line, and second-choice Bobby's Kitten, tabbed at 3-1.
Trainer Christophe Clement has won nearly every graded stakes on the turf at Belmont Park, but has yet to saddle a winner of either the Miss Grillo or the Pilgrim. He is hoping that will change on Sunday when he sends out recent maiden winners Bikini Beauty in the former and Blue Pigeon in the latter.
Bikini Beauty, a daughter of Bernardini, came from 12th to win her debut by 3 ¾ lengths on September 7 at Belmont, while the Mizzen Mast colt Blue Pigeon handily defeated New York-breds in his first outing on August 28 at Saratoga.
"It is a little bit ambitious to go second time out in a stakes with Bikini Beauty, but she's done everything right and it would be unfair for me to take away this opportunity from her," said Clement. "I'm not sure she beat any world-class horses, but she's done it the right way and she just has to step it up. With Blue Pigeon, it's also ambitious, but we'll take a shot."
Jose Ortiz will ride Bikini Beauty, 5-1, from post position 4 in the Miss Grillo and Jose's brother, Irad, will pilot Blue Pigeon, 12-1, from post 7, in the Pilgrim.