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Daisy Devine provides slight upset in Fair Grounds Oaks
Many were expecting Saturday's $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) to be the coming-out party for Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) runner-up Inglorious (Hennessy), but it was James M. Miller's DAISY DEVINE (Kafwain) who asserted her authority over the 1 1/16-mile contest.
The Andrew McKeever pupil tracked the pacesetting Grandacious (Grand Slam) for the opening six furlongs through fractions of :24 1/5, :48 2/5 and 1:13 before taking command and pulling off the half-length victory under jockey James Graham. The bay lass ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 1/5 over the fast New Orleans oval, boosting her bankroll to $359,788 with the winner's share of the purse.
"She's got a high closing gear," Graham said. "Picks up from it and does what you ask her to do. I told the trainer in the paddock that they'll have to run to outrun her."
Daisy Devine was the 9-2 second choice in the race and returned $11, $5.40 and $3.80 to her backers.
"That was a great result," McKeever said. "She trained super going into the race. We were confident. We skipped the Rachel Alexandra and trained her into the race and that did her a lot of good. That was a perfect trip today."
Maiden winner St. John's River (Include) rallied from the back to take second by 1 3/4 lengths over Niji's Grand Girl (Candy Ride [Arg]), who was in turn a half-length up on 6-5 favorite Inglorious. Grandacious, Tapit Dancer (Tapit), Tourmaline (Kafwain), Switching Gears (Tapit) and Little Miss Holly (Maria's Mon) completed the order under the wire after Snow Fall (War Front) was an early scratch.
"We're a little disappointed," trainer Josie Carroll said of Inglorious. "She didn't get the opportunity to kick home the way she normally would, you know, sit back and wait and kick home. But she ran her race against nice horses and hopefully she comes out of it well and that's all we can ask for."
When asked if the Kentucky Oaks (G1) was still under consideration Carroll replied, "I have absolutely no idea until we see how she comes out of it. I talked to the owners and we determined we're going to analyze the race and then we'll decide whether she should go in that direction or not."
The Fair Grounds Oaks runner-up and third-place finisher are also still possible for the first Friday in May.
"She ran her race and she got outrun. She ran a great race," trainer Andy Leggio Jr. said of St. John's River. "I knew she was that good; that's why she was in there. We're going to Keeneland and we're not sure what after that. We thought if she'd win this race we'd run her in the Kentucky Oaks and we still have that in the back of our minds. If the race had been a little bit longer we would've won it."
"She's such a hard tryer," conditioner Ken McPeek spoke of Niji's Grand Girl. "We may try her there (in the Kentucky Oaks). She broke her maiden there (at Churchill Downs). We'll see. She ran a good race and at this point we're just trying to get her cooled out. Whether she runs in the Kentucky Oaks and all that depends on how she does between now and then. It's possible; I'm not going to rule it out."
Daisy Devine improved her career mark to 5-4-1-0 with this victory, with her only off-the-board run coming over the synthetic Polytrack last October in a Keeneland maiden. McKeever took his charge to Fair Grounds for the winter, and the bay lass scored against maiden claiming rivals in early December. She returned at the end of that month to add an allowance win to her resume, and opened her sophomore campaign with a nice neck second in the Silverbulletday S. over the track.
Bred by J. Reiley McDonald in Kentucky, Daisy Devine was a bargain $5,500 Keeneland September yearling purchase for her owner. She is out of the Devil's Bag mare Devil's Dispute, whose first foal, Patent Pending (Conquistador Cielo), was a stakes winner in New York. Devil's Dispute is also the dam of 2007 Claiming Crown Iron Horse S. victor Bargainwiththedevil (Southern Halo) and a juvenile colt named Senor Peligroso (El Corredor).
Daisy Devine's second dam is Grade 2 heroine Impetuous Gal (Briartic), who would go on in the breeding shed to produce three-time Grade 1 queen Banker's Lady (Nijinsky II) and Grade 3 scorer Idabel (Mr. Prospector). Banker's Lady is herself the dam of dual Grade 2 star Banker's Gold (Forty Niner), who was runner-up in the 1998 editions of the Metropolitan H. (G1) and Carter H. (G1).
Others of note in this line include Grade 1 king Ecton Park (Forty Niner); Grade/Group 3 winners Charity Belle (Empire Maker), Daring Heart (Sunday Silence) and Pit Fighter (Pulpit); and last year's Gallant Bob S. winner and King's Bishop S. (G1) second Bank Merger (Consolidator).