10/06/2011 4:11PM

Keeneland: Daveron part of deep field in First Lady


LEXINGTON, Ky. – A couple of 6-year-old mares in peak form are among the overflow field Saturday at Keeneland in the $350,000 First Lady, a Grade 1 race that ranks among the deepest in the filly-mare turf division this year.

Daveron, a German-bred with stakes wins in 4 of her last 5 starts, and Never Retreat, a perennial overachiever with four graded wins this year, will clash with as many as 10 others in a riveting 14th running of the one-mile turf race.

Daveron comes off a resounding victory in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa on the Aug. 27 Travers undercard at Saratoga for the owner-trainer team of Team Valor International and Graham Motion. Before that, she was similarly sharp in winning stakes at Belmont Park in May and Parx in July.

“We’ve had her since she was a yearling, and she’s always had a ton of ability,” said Team Valor president Barry Irwin. “She’s been a real emotional case, but with the way Graham trains her at Fair Hill, she’s been relaxing unbelievably. Only in her last two starts has she run what I’d call fully realized races.”

With Eddie Castro back aboard, Daveron will break from post 3 in the First Lady, which has been programmed with 14 horses, although only as many as 12 can start.

Never Retreat, the Chicago-based standout trained by Chris Block, will start much farther out in post 12 with Julien Leparoux up. The Smart Strike mare has gotten only lukewarm mutuels respect when she has won this year in the Grade 3 Honey Fox (3-1), Grade 2 Jenny Wiley (7-1), Grade 2 Dance Smartly (4-1), and Grade 2 Canadian (6-1).

“We’re real proud of what she’s accomplished this year,” said Block. “It’s going to be tough Saturday with the 12-hole, but we’ll deal with it the best we can. I guess somebody had to be in the 12.”

Other contenders include C.S. Silk, a two-back winner of the Grade 1 Just a Game on the Belmont Stakes undercard for trainer Dale Romans; Wasted Tears, the speedy Texas-based 6-year-old on the cusp of $1 million in earnings; and Éclair de Lune, the 2010 Beverly D. winner.

The sleeper of the field is a Coolmore filly named Together, a 3-year-old who has been competitive with some of Europe’s best fillies.

“If you went on Timeform numbers, she’s definitely the filly to beat,” said Irwin, well-versed in European racing.

Another 3-year-old, Theyskens’ Theory, possibly could scratch in favor of the Spinster here Sunday, said trainer Shug McGaughey. Her defection could allow either Snow Top Mountain or Tapitsfly into a maxed-out lineup. Like Theyskens’ Theory, Tapitsfly is cross-entered in the Spinster.

The First Lady, which has undergone a number of sponsorship and name changes since its 1998 inaugural, is carded as the seventh of 10 Saturday races, with post time set for 4:37 p.m. Eastern. The 2010 winner was Proviso, trained by Bill Mott for Juddmonte Farms.