Sheikh Mohammed's classy homebred Better Lucky showed resiliency in the stretch to edge Dayatthespa by a head in the $400,000 First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) Oct. 5 in a driving rainstorm at Keeneland (VIDEO) .
With her victory in the one-mile turf test for fillies and mares, Better Lucky earned the second grade I triumph of her career. Bred by Darley and campaigned by Godolphin Racing, the 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly closed out last season with a victory in the Matriarch Stakes (gr. I) at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Trained by Tom Albertrani, the bay filly who seems to be competitive every try, was ridden to victory by Julien Leparoux. She hadn't won in three previous starts this season but had placed in each, including a second and third in grade I races.
"Today she was 'Better Lucky.' Last couple of times she's been a little unlucky, took wide trips and ran great races," said Darley America President Jimmy Bell. "We've been looking at this race for quite a while. Julien gave her a great ride and Tommy had her to the minute tuned up. We were Better Lucky today and got it done."
Early on, last year's First Lady runner-up Daisy Devine and jockey James Graham appeared to be making their own luck as they opened a clear lead through a half mile in :48.60 and six furlongs in 1:14.21 on the yielding turf. But Better Lucky would seize the lead just before midstretch, with Dayatthespa shadowing her. Those two would battle to the wire with Better Lucky prevailing.
"My goggles all fogged up so it was not very easy to see on the backside," said winning rider Leparoux. "I tried to take them off and put them back on to see where I was. She took me into the race very nice. She fought back when Johnny (Velazquez on Dayatthespa) came back on the inside. She's a nice filly for sure."
Better Lucky returned $11.60 to win, $5 to place, and $3.40 to show as the co-third choice in the field of eight. Sent off the 5-2 favorite, Dayatthespa returned $4.20 and $3.20, while third-place finisher Daisy Devine returned $3.40 to show.
Meeting in the grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes last year, Dayatthespa finished first with Better Lucky third. Bell said it's a strong division of turf fillies and mares this year.
"They've been seeing a lot of each other. It's a lot of the same group and there's not a lot that separates them," Bell said. "Very, very strong group of fillies here, and we're very, very happy to win a race like this at Keeneland."
Better Lucky was the second female to win a graded stakes at Keeneland Saturday as Judy the Beauty won the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II).