LEXINGTON, Ky. -- It was a year ago this weekend that Proviso announced herself, with great flair, as one to watch out for, if not avoid. She crossed the wire first in the Spinster Stakes, but only after making a sudden shift in deep stretch that forced Keeneland's stewards to disqualify her.
A year later, Proviso has developed into one of the leading female turf runners in the country. She has won three straight Grade 1 races and will go for a fourth Saturday, when she heads a field of nine in the $400,000 First Lady at Keeneland.
The First Lady, at one mile on turf, offers an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf through the Win and You're In program. But if there's any BC race on Proviso's agenda, it would be the Mile grass race, against males. The Filly and Mare Turf is at 1 3/8 miles, seemingly beyond her optimum. And Prince Khalid Adbullah's Juddmonte Farms, which owns Proviso, already has the Filly and Mare Turf favorite in Midday, the race's defending champion.
"The only option is the Breeders' Cup Mile, but those decisions won't be made until after this weekend," trainer Bill Mott, who has expertly guided Proviso this year, said while watching her train at Keeneland on Thursday morning. "It will be up to them whether they want to go for it. We'll wait and see and then discuss it."
When she came on the track to train on Thursday morning, Proviso was the picture of serenity, standing quietly near the finish line, taking in the scene on a gorgeous fall morning. But when allowed to gallop, she grabbed the bit, anxious to get it on, and aggressively went around the track. She gave every indication that she was ready to rumble.
"She's different. Different than the average," Mott said in admiration. "She's won three Grade 1's on the grass this year, two at a mile, one time beat the boys."
The Kilroe Mile, against males, began the streak. Proviso did not run until nearly three months later, then was off for eight weeks. She has had 10 weeks off coming into this race.
"Like a lot of good ones, she runs hard," Mott said. "You've got to give them enough time to recover."
Mott is sitting on a potentially big day. He also has Courageous Cat in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile on Saturday. Lending some help during training hours Thursday morning and expected to make an encore Saturday was Mott's son, Riley, a freshman at nearby UK.
"I'm not sure if that's the University of Keeneland or the University of Kentucky," Mott said. "He loves the racetrack."
For Proviso to prevail, she will have to outfinish the tenacious Wasted Tears, who comes into the First Lady riding a seven-race winning streak. She most recently captured the John Mabee at Del Mar in August, after which Bart Evans -- who bred, owns, and trains Wasted Tears -- targeted the First Lady in hopes of getting Wasted Tears a Grade 1 win.
Gotta Have Her, a close third in the Mabee, came back to take the Palomar at the end of the Del Mar meet and has arrived here for the First Lady. The last time she raced at one mile on turf, she won the Royal Heroine at Hollywood Park.
Dynaslew, a close fourth behind Proviso in the Diana at Saratoga, has since won the Ballston Spa, her third win in five starts this year. She figures to get a good tracking trip.
Fantasia was fifth to Proviso in the Just a Game. She did run well in her lone start on this course in her North American debut in April.
Kiss Mine has won four straight against weaker competition. This is her toughest test yet.