By Ron Mitchell and Evan Hammonds
Kentucky Derby week began with a bang Monday, April 26, with several major developments from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, including the announcement that the filly Devil May Care would be entered only in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Following the morning workouts, Pletcher announced during a press briefing that Glencrest Farm’s filly Devil May Care would be entered only in the May 1 Derby. Earlier, Glencrest’s John Greathouse had said there was a strong possibility the daughter of Malibu Moon would be entered in both the Kentucky Derby and the April 30 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), with a final determination coming after the post position draws for both races.
Pletcher said he and Greathouse have always held Devil May Care in high regard and believe she has the ability to compete against males in the Kentucky Derby.
Pletcher and Greathouse said one of the deciding factors in entering Devil May Care in the Derby was the April 25 announcement that Pletcher-trained Eskendereya would not run due to filling his left front leg. That decision meant that John Velazquez, regular rider for both horses, would be available to ride Devil May Care.
"It was the deciding factor," Pletcher said, "not only that he was available but why he was available.
"She is an exceptional filly, and we have always felt that way," Pletcher said. "Since she’s been here (at Churchill Downs) she has trained phenomenally. Obviously, with the big horse (Eskendereya) coming out yesterday, the field is wide open, and she deserves a chance."
In weighing the 1 1/4-mile Derby, which is limited to 20 starters, against the 1 1/8-mile Oaks, with 14 runners, Pletcher said there was not much difference.
"With a 14-horse field at a mile and an eighth there is going to be just as much traffic in the first turn as there is a 20-horse field going a mile and a quarter," Pletcher said. "She is a strong filly, and I think she has got the right disposition and the right mechanics to fit.
"The way she moves and gets over the ground and the way she can settle into a race behind horses comfortably is what she does well and is similar to what Eskendereya does well," he added.
She will attempt to become the fourth filly to win the Run for the Roses, joining Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980), and Winning Colors (1988). Fillies have had a great deal of success in America’s classic races of late with Rachel Alexandra winning last year’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and Rags to Riches taking a dramatic 2007 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) over Curlin.
The defection of Rule means that Jackson Bend now moves into the 20th spot on the list of Derby contenders by graded stakes earnings that is used to determine the Kentucky Derby starting field. Jackson Bend is owned by Robert LaPenta, who also has Ice Box in the Derby.
Pletcher also said that the 121 pound weight assigned fillies in Triple Crown races, compared with 126 for males, is a positive for having the filly in the Derby. "Five pounds is a lot at a mile-and-a-quarter."
The trainer said there were a lot of similarities between Devil May Care and Rags to Riches, the filly he saddled to upset eventual Horse of the Year Curlin in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in 2007. "Both are efficient movers, and you can tell they have natural stamina," he said.
Despite her dominance over males in the Belmont, Pletcher said Rags to Riches ran in the Oaks rather than the Kentucky Derby because that year’s 3-year-old male crop was strong, with Street Sense, Curlin, Hard Spun, and Any Given Saturday.
"It was a deeper division than it appears like it is now. Right now, it doesn’t have those same imposing horses," he said.
Devil May Care has won three of her five career starts, including the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) as a 2-year-old. In her most recent effort, Devil May Care won the Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.