Never Retreat, ridden by the red-hot Julien Leparoux, overcame the far outside post to capture the $350,000 First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) on the Keeneland turf Oct. 8 (VIDEO).
Charging late in the middle of the course, Never Retreat collared pacesetting Wasted Tears and edged away in deep stretch to win the one-mile event for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths in stakes-record time of 1:34.08. She broke the mark of 1:34.14 established by Gorella in 2006, and was slightly off the course record of 1:33.54 owned by Perfect Soul (2004).
Leparoux earned his fourth win of the day at Keeneland. Never Retreat is unbeaten in three starts when ridden by the Frenchman.
Chris Block trains the winning 6-year-old daughter of Smart Strike for Team Block. Out of the Steady Growth mare Lisieux, Never Retreat was bred in Kentucky by Gerry O'Meara and Stanley Inman.
Never Retreat, coming off a half-length victory in the Canadian Stakes (Can-IIT) at Woodbine Sept. 18, earned her fifth win in 10 starts in 2011. She previously won the Dance Smartly (Can-IIT), Jenny Wiley (gr. IIT), and Honey Fox (gr. IIIT) stakes this year.
Together, a 3-year-old making her first start in the United States for Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien, overcame a slow start to get up for second at the wire over slight 7-2 favorite Daveron.
Wasted Tears, ridden by Joel Rosario, cleared the field coming out of the gate to get the lead at the rail by two lengths over outsider Absinthe Minded, with Bay to Bay tracking along the inside. Never Retreat was placed fourth on the outside. Wasted Tears, eight for 11 in her career at the distance, showed the way through solid fractions of :23.59, :46.80, and 1:10.61. She continued to lead past mid-stretch, briefly repelling a threat from Daveron along the inside.
But Wasted Tears weakened in the final sixteenth as Never Retreat came charging. Never Retreat grabbed the lead and was in command in the closing stages under steady handling.
"We were on the outside, so we were hoping to drop her in a little bit on the first turn," Leparoux said. "She put me in the race good, just nice and easy, and she finished good.”
Together, ridden by Colm O'Donoghue, was left at the break but finished up well to pip Daveron by a nose for the runner-up spot. The German-bred Daveron, winner of Saratoga's Ballston Spa Stakes (gr. IIT) Aug. 27, had a three-race win streak halted for trainer Graham Motion.
“(Jockey) Eddie (Castro) said she was a little bit intimidated," Motion said. "She’s not used to being down on the inside in between horses like that. She’s a little happier when she’s clear, so he said it was a little bit hard to get her going. Then when it cleared up she came running, but by then it was a little bit too late.”
Wasted Tears held on for fourth, a half-length farther back, followed by Bay to Bay, Gypsy's Warning, C. S. Silk, Cherokee Queen, Eclair de Lune, Absinthe Minded, Theyskens' Theory, and Category Seven.
Never Retreat improved her career record to 11-7-6 in 31 starts while banking $1,268,769. The victory was worth $210,000.
Under 124 pounds, she paid $10, $5.20, and $3.60. Together, who had been banging heads with many of the best females in Ireland and Great Britain, returned $6 and $3.40. The exacta was worth $61.20. Daveron paid $3.20 to show.
Snow Top Mountain and Tapitsfly, both on the also-eligible list, were scratched.