Two seasons ago, trainer Roger Attfield looked at Lady Shakespeare and knew her best days were likely a ways off.
"She was a slight and temperamental filly so I only raced her twice as a 2-year-old and I was looking toward her 4-year-old year, really," Attfield said.
That early assessment was borne out Thursday when Lady Shakespeare caught pacesetter Changing Skies in the stretch to win the Grade III, $150,000 Grey Goose Bewitch Stakes by 21/2 lengths over 11/2 miles on the Keeneland turf.
Owned and bred by Charles Fipke, Lady Shakespeare had been ultra consistent in her 10 starts, finishing off the board just twice, but she had never gotten over that graded-stakes hump.
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Though the 4-year-old won the Ontario Colleen Stakes going a mile at Woodbine last August, Attfield said he felt her pedigree and running style would serve her better over longer distances.
"I gave her the one run down in Florida at a mile and a half (the Grade III Orchid Stakes at Gulfstream on March 28) and she lost a shoe and ... I thought she wasn't going to hit the board that day, but then she just missed and ran second," Attfield said. "She's a very, very versatile filly with a big future ahead of her."
Sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the Bewitch, Lady Shakespeare settled into second behind soft fractions in the seven-horse field as Changing Skies loped through 6 furlongs in 1:18.24.
When Lady Shakespeare was called upon by jockey John Velazquez, she displayed her ample acceleration, drawing off on the outside path in the final furlong to hit the wire in 2:31.42.
"Once I got her running, once she switched to her right lead and started running really well, I knew I got 'em them," Velazquez said.
Changing Skies, winner of the Grade III The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream on Feb. 27, had enough in reserve to hold for second with Sweet and Flawless making a mild bid late to get up for third.
Lady Shakespeare improved her career record to six wins in 11 starts with earnings of $405,608.
With her first graded-stakes victory finally under her belt, Attfield is even more confident this year will prove to be Lady Shakespeare's most auspicious yet.
"She'll win a Grade I, don't you worry," Attfield said.