Godolphin Invader Looms Large in First Lady

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Crown Walk | Scoop Dyga

With the prestigious GI Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup S. coming up next Saturday at Keeneland, Godolphin and trainer Henry-Alex Pantall could’ve easily kept their 3-year-old filly Crown Walk (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) amongst her sophomore peers for her North American debut. The fact that they didn’t, and chose instead to try the homebred against elders in Saturday’s GI First Lady S. in Lexington, should say it all about how much faith they have in their charge and what the other nine fillies set to face her can expect in this Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier.

Dominating an allowance May 14 at Saint-Cloud, the chestnut stepped up to run a narrow second in the G2 Prix de Sandringham June 3 at Chantilly before annexing that track’s G3 Prix Chloe July 9. Facing elders in the G1 Prix Rothschild last out July 29 at Deauville, she made the pace and dug in late to be second behind the promising ‘TDN Rising Star’ With You (GB) (Dansili {GB}). Only out of the exacta once in seven starts, Crown Walk will get the added benefit of Lasix in the First Lady.

Peter Brant’s Quidura (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) comes in with the best form of the American-based runners, having captured the GII Ballston Spa S. wire-to-wire last out Aug. 25 at Saratoga. Third at over 11-1 in the GI Jenny Wiley S. here last spring, the bay narrowly missed Grade I glory two starts later when second by a head to multiple champion Lady Eli (Divine Park) in the GI Diana S.

Her fellow Chad Brown trainee A Raving Beauty (Ger) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}) will try to bounce back after running a disappointing fourth at odds-on in the Ballston Spa. Prior to that, the gray opened her North American account with victories in the GIII Beaugay S. and GI Longines Just A Game S. before running into traffic trouble when third in the Diana.

Nosing out A Raving Beauty for third in the Ballston Spa was Indian Blessing (GB) (Sepoy {Aus}). Capturing the G3 Sparkasse Holstein Cup July 4 at Hamburg in Germany and running third at 20-1 in the G3 Lormarins Queens Plate Oak Tree S. Aug. 3 at Goodwood to earn a trip to the States, the chestnut turned in a sneaky good effort at the Spa, overcoming early rankness and closing late in a race dominated on the front end.

Stonestreet Stables’ ‘TDN Rising Star’ Valadorna (Curlin) may have reinvented herself as a turf horse approaching the end of her 4-year-old season. Second in the 2016 GI 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, the chestnut appeared to be one of the leading sophomore lasses heading into last season, but never reached that top level again. Switched to grass in the GIII Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf S. Sept. 8, she survived a fight on the front end only to be just caught by the re-opposing Insta Erma (Pioneerof the Nile) on the wire.

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