11/06/2012 1:59PM

Churchill Downs: Fleur de Lilly gets Claiming Crown prep

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Now that Buff Bradley has achieved all his goals with Groupie Doll, including winning a Breeders’ Cup race, he has an objective with another homebred 4-year-old filly by Bowman’s Band – winning a Claiming Crown race.

Fleur de Lilly, bred by Bradley’s wife, Kim, will be prepping for the $125,000 Claiming Crown Emerald as one of the favorites Thursday in the feature race at Churchill Downs, a $56,000 turf allowance at 1 1/16 miles.

“You always want to win, and obviously we’d like to win Thursday with her,” Bradley said. “But ideally this will set her up for the Claiming Crown,” to be run Dec. 1, opening day at Gulfstream Park.

Fleur de Lilly, with John McKee to ride from post 3, is one of 10 fillies and mares in the ninth of 10 Thursday races, a third-level allowance with an $80,000 claiming option. Owned by Band On the Run, a partnership that includes Kim Bradley and other family and friends, the filly has been remarkably consistent while steadily ascending the class ladder this year, posting four wins and four other in-the-money finishes from 12 starts.

Naturally, Bradley will not be feeling the kind of anxiety Thursday that he felt in the run-up to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint last Saturday at Santa Anita, where Groupie Doll clinched a divisional Eclipse with yet another flashy romp.

“I wasn’t nervous, but I was anxious,” he said. “I was just ready to do it. Once you know they’re ready to go like she was, you just want to get it over with. It was a big weekend not only for us, but a lot of other people from Kentucky. It really was great.”

Fleur de Lilly, pegged at 5-1 on the morning line, is part of a well-matched field in the Thursday feature. The mare assigned just to her inside, Millennia (post 2, Joe Rocco Jr.), is a lukewarm 3-1 choice when in for the $80,000 tag. Her four-back triumph in a Monmouth Park turf allowance surely would make her tough to beat in this spot.

Five others are listed between 5-1 and 8-1, illustrating the contentious nature of the lineup. One of that group is Charming She Is (post 9, Calvin Borel), who was ambitiously pre-entered in both the BC Marathon and Ladies’ Classic, but ultimately was not entered.

Two other allowances, both of them also scheduled for the grass, are part of a fine Thursday program.

In race 6, a $52,000 mile for 2-year-old fillies, Always Kitten will be favored under Corey Lanerie when she returns as the beaten favorite from the Grade 3 Jessamine at Keeneland. A couple hours earlier, in a $54,000 sprint, a trio of 3-year-olds figure to vie for favoritism: Lake Victor, Go Blue or Go Home, and Incredibly Smart.

First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.