Grade I winner Daisy Devine made quick work of four rivals in the $72,000 Blushing K.D. Handicap, (VIDEO) going gate to wire for a six-length victory on the turf at Fair Ground Race Course & Slots Dec. 22.
The 1-5 favorite in 1 1/16-mile turf event for fillies and mares was ridden to victory by Brian Hernandez Jr. in a time of 1:44.12 on firm footing. The race was one of three main stakes events on a program dubbed "Super Santa Saturday." In the other main events, Strike Impact took the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap and China upset the Bonapaw Stakes at 36-1.
Andrew McKeever trains the 4-year-old daughter of Kafwain for owner James Miller. The bay filly, winer of the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) on dirt at the New Orleans track last spring, was bred in Kentucky by J. Reiley McDonald and is out of the Devil's Bag mare Devil's Dispute.
Hernandez called the Blushing K.D. "a paid workout" for Daisy Devine, winner of the Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IT) April at Keeneland. Second in Keeneland's First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) in October, she was coming off a victory in the Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs Nov. 10.
Breaking from the inside post in the small field, Daisy Devine went directly to the front on the initial straightaway to lead 50-1 shot Necessary Luxury through the first six furlongs, which went in fractions of :24.00, :49.42, and 1:13.80.
Racing slightly off the rail into the far turn, she extended her lead to 3 1/2 lengths coming into the stretch before opening up by eight lengths after being asked a bit by Hernandez. She was eased up in the final furlong.
Daisy Devine, who paid $2.40, won for the ninth time in a 16-race career and upped her earnings to $946,281.
In the $73,500 Diliberto Memorial, 8-year-old Strike Impact, urged home emphatically by Shaun Bridgmohan, defeated Hotep by one length to post an 8-1 surprise. The veteran campaigner Strike Impact, trained and co-owned by Patrick Dupuy along with Chester J. Miller, ran the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:46.38 on the turf.
Dupuy clamed Strike Impact in 2009.
Stalking a slow pace established by Workin for Hops, Strike Impact hit the front at the top of the lane and held on with determination as Hotep charged from last in the seven-horse field on the final turn. Dubious Miss was neck farther behind in third, with 5-2 choice Skyring a nose back in fourth.
"I just wanted to give him a better trip than I did last time," said Bridgmohan in reference to a sixth-place finish in an allowance heat at Churchill Downs Nov. 16. "In his last race I think I just got in his way."
Strike Impact, who paid $19.40 for the victory, visited the winner's circle for the 18th time over a 69-race resume and boosted his career earnings to $657,393. He was second in last year's "Buddy D".
By Smart Strike out of the Time for a Change mare Foret Noire, the multiple stakes-winning and graded placed bay gelding was bred in Kentucky by Hermitage Farm.
The $74,250 Bonapaw Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf went to front-running China, the longest shot on the board at 36-1, with John Jacinto aboard for trainer John Good and owners Black Sheep Racing.
China, who dueled under pressure with Cash Refund for a half-mile, opened up a clear advantage mid-stretch and held on gamely by a neck as Icon Ike flew late on the far outside to get second over Global Power.
"I never thought I'd be on the lead but he broke so sharp I just let him go," Jacinto said in the winner's circle.
Chamberlain Bridge, who captured the 2010 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT), had to settle for fourth in defense of his win in last year's Bonapaw as the 19-10 favorite.
"He just didn't show up with his 'A' game today," said his trainer Bret Calhoun. "We didn't quite get the trip we were looking for."
China, who paid $74.20 for his first stakes score, keyed a $541.60 exacta and was timed in 1:04.76. The 5-year-old horse, bred in Kentucky by Totler Creek Farm, is by Tale of the Cat out of Crow Jane, by Indian Charlie. His sixth win in 18 starts pushed the bay's bankroll to $271,072.
Good seemed surprised by China's win.
"Even putting him in this race itself was kind of an audible," he said. "It was just that the surface switch (dirt to turf) made sense."