10/08/2011 5:34PM

Keeneland: Never Retreat makes First Lady her fifth graded win of season

Coady Photography
Hot jockey Julien Leparoux guides Never Retreat to her first Grade 1 win in the First Lady.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Never Retreat might get respect one day. For now, Team Block will take the money and more graded type.

Quickly overcoming the outside post in a 12-horse field, Never Retreat won her fifth graded turf stakes of the year, and her first Grade 1, when prevailing Saturday at Keeneland in the $350,000 First Lady. Never Retreat, owned by the family of her trainer, Chris Block, returned $10 as second choice, marking the fourth time in her five 2011 wins that she has not been the favorite.

Ridden by the red-hot Julien Leparoux – a six-time Keeneland riding champion who won with a remarkable 8 of his first 15 mounts during the first two cards of this 17-day fall meet – Never Retreat already was sitting a clean fourth when the field swung into the backstretch run of the one-mile First Lady.

“She broke good,” said Leparoux, now 3 for 3 on Never Retreat. “We were on the outside wanting to drop in. She put me in the race good, did it nice and easy. I’d ridden her a couple times before and knew what she could do.”

Block was in Chicago to saddle another of his stable stars, Giant Oak, in the Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Never Retreat, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Smart Strike, finished 1 1/2 lengths before Together, the 9-2 third choice and one of two 3-year-olds in the field. Daveron, the lukewarm 7-2 favorite, was just a nose back in third, followed by Wasted Tears, who set the pace until weakening inside the eighth pole.

Never Retreat completed the distance in 1:34.08 over firm going and earned $210,000, lifting her bankroll to $1,268,769.