How to bet the First Lady
A Raving Beauty captures the Just a Game Stakes (G1) (c) NYRA/Viola Jasko/Adam Coglianese Photography
by Dick Powell
The $400,000 First Lady Stakes (G1) will be run at one mile on the turf at Keeneland this Saturday. With an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) awarded to the winner from the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge series, it has attracted a field of 10 fillies and mares.
What intrigues me about this year’s renewal is the amount of speed in the field. QUIDURA (#3) (2-1) and LA SARDANE (#9) (15-1) are both very fast and have won graded races on the front end while DONA BRUJA (#7) (6-1) captured a Grade 3 going gate-to-wire at Tampa Bay Downs to begin 2018. Quidura is one of three Chad Brown trainees and, from post 3, it looks like Javier Castellano will put the pedal down coming out of the gate.
The other speed horse is French shipper CROWN WALK (#4) (4-1). She went gate-to-wire to win a Group 3 going nine furlongs at Chantilly, then was a good second behind the classy With You on soft turf in a Group 1 at Deauville going this distance last out on July 29. The daughter of Dubawi adds Mike Smith and Lasix. What is interesting is that she shows up here against older rivals and not the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) against straight three-year-olds.
A RAVING BEAUTY (#2) (3-1) won her first two starts in America earlier this season, including a Grade 1 score at Belmont Park going a mile in 1:32.14. She raced evenly last out in Saratoga’s Ballston Spa Stakes (G2), a race where the speed never backed up, and draws well here with Johnny Velazquez. Chad Brown has had a monstrous year with his turf runners and runs three in here, but A Raving Beauty’s stablemate Sistercharlie is not one of them. It looks like she can sit off the early pace and make her one run to the lead.
INDIAN BLESSING (#5) (12-1) was a Group 3 winner in Germany going this distance and just missed in a seven-furlong Group 3 in England before shipping to America and rallying for third in the Ballston Spa off only three week’s rest. The two horses who went to the front stayed there and Indian Blessing, despite being rank in the first half-mile, was the only one who made up any ground from behind. It will be interesting to see how she responds since there is a theory that it’s best to bet Euro shippers first start off the plane and not the second.
Dona Bruja ran fourth in this race last year when beaten by only two lengths. She romped by four lengths in her seasonal debut in the Endeavour Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs when she went gate-to-wire, then came back 10 weeks later and could not hold off Sistercharlie, who would be heavily favored in here if entered. Last out in the Beverly D. (G1), Dona Bruja had trouble early and was never up near the early pace. She returned to her Keeneland home base and gets Declan Cannon, who piloted her two a pair of Grade 3 wins last year.
Chad Brown treats Grade/Group 1s like Aidan O’Brien does – he wants them all. A Raving Beauty looks like she should get the dream set up from post 2 and take this one down. There is enough speed to stalk and she should be able to save ground until Velazquez needs to find room.
Underneath her, I think Crown Walk will run well in her American debut and both Quidura and Indian Blessing will be hard to ignore. Dona Bruja might go off at a decent price with Cannon back aboard.
Exacta Key Box: #2 with 3, 4, 5
Triecta Key Box: #2 with 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 with 3, 4, 5, 7, 9