Sword Dancer Invitational S. (gr. I)

(gr. IT , 12f ,)

GRAND COUTURIER (GB) (B h, 117 lb) $300,000
Grand Lodge —Lady Elgar (IRE) , by Sadler's Wells
B—Tom Wilson, GB.; O—Marc Keller; T—Robert Ribaudo

English Channel (CH h, 123 lb) $100,000
Smart Strike —Belva , by Theatrical (IRE)
B—Keene Ridge Farm, KY.; O—James T. Scatuorchio; T—Todd A. Pletcher

Trippi's Storm (B g, 116 lb) $50,000
Trippi —Pocket Beauty , by Storm Bird
B—E. Paul Robsham, FL.; O—E. Paul Robsham Stables LLC; T—Stanley M. Hough

Margins: 3, 2¾, 1. Others: Crown Point 116($25,000) , Always First (GB) 116($15,000) , Embossed (IRE) 116($3,334) , Fri Guy 116($3,334) , Ramazutti 118($3,332) . Winning Jockey, Calvin H. Borel.

Marc Keller’s Grand Couturier did what few believed he could do in defeating heavy favorite English Channel by three lengths to capture the Aug. 11 Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) at Saratoga.

Under this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)-winning jockey Calvin Borel, Grand Couturier, who went off at odds of 15-1, completed the 11¼2-mile turf event in 2:26.59.

The outcome of the race was especially sweet for trainer Robert Ribaudo, who notched his first grade I victory.

Grand Couturier, who was third in the Sword Dancer last year, joined Ribaudo’s barn last summer after being sent from France to the United States.

“He’s a typical European-style horse,” said Ribaudo. “He’s had some issues; nothing serious, but we had to deal with them and he didn’t adjust to our ways right away.”

Grand Couturier came into the Sword Dancer off a disappointing unplaced effort in the July 14 Bob Harding Stakes at Monmouth Park.

The English-bred colt won four of six starts at 2 and 3 in France, where he competed against such stars as last year’s John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Red Rocks, and Rail Link, winner of the 2006 Pix de l’Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere (Fr-I).

Grand Couturier, a 4-year-old son of Grand Lodge, was one of several European-based horses brought to North America last year by Keller, who recently re-entered the business after not owning horses since the 1980s.

Bred by Tom Wilson, Grand Couturier was originally purchased for $6,285 by Kilronan Stud at the 2004 Tattersalls October yearling sale from Watership Down Stud, agent.

Grand Couturier is out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Lady Elgar, who is a half-sister to grade III winners Home of the Free and Poolesta (both by Hero’s Honor) and full sister to stakes winner Desert Fox.

Appearing under the line of Lady Elgar’s second dam are dual European champion Gold and Ivory (by Key to the Mint), champion sire Elusive Quality (by Gone West), Irish champion Rossini, and Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male Anees.

Lady Elgar was last bought for $210,000 by Fares Farm at the 2005 Keeneland November mixed sale. Consigned by Brookdale Sales, agent, she was carrying her now yearling Johar colt.

In addition to Grand Couturier, Lady Elgar is the dam of English stakes winner Yaqeen (by Green Desert), who was purchased for $400,000 by Shadwell Estate Co. at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale from Brookdale Sales, agent.

Grand Lodge, English champion son of Chief’s Crown, is the sire of 64 stakes winners, including other 2007 group winners Blue Coral (Aut-II), Adagio (Eng-III), Boston Lodge (UAE-III), and Host Nation (Fr-III). Grand Lodge stood at Coolmore Stud in Ireland until he was euthanized in 2003 due to complications from a paddock accident.—E.M.