The four-year-old filly Daisy Devine has proven hard to beat at Fair Grounds, compiling a five-for-six mark at the New Orleans course including two scores in a pair of grass stakes at last year's meet. Having gone on to bigger and better things since last racing in the Big Easy, Daisy Devine will be a prohibitive favorite to add another Fair Grounds stakes win to her ledger in Saturday's $75,000 Blushing K. D. Handicap.
The Blushing K. D., for fillies and mares at about 1 1/16 miles on the turf, is one of five added-money events on a program dubbed Santa Super Saturday.Daisy Devine, who carries top weight of 124 pounds, landed both the Pago Hop and Mardi Gras Handicap during the 2011-12 Fair Grounds meet before upsetting the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in mid-April. Among the vanquished in the latter event was Zagora, the favorite to be named champion turf mare following a season-ending score in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.Sidelined five months following a dull fifth in the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, Daisy Devine returned to action in the October 6 Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland and finished a strong second, a half-length behind Tapitsfly. In her most recent outing, in last month's Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap, Daisy Devine opened up a six-length lead early but had to dig deep in the final three-sixteenths to hold off a determined Julie's Love by a head.
Hailing from the barn of Andrew McKeever, who has begun the current Fair Grounds meet with three wins from six starters, Daisy Devine will be piloted for the Saturday by Brian Hernandez Jr., who last rode the filly to a Fair Grounds allowance win nearly two years ago.
Artemus Kitten appears to be the main threat to Daisy Devine. The Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred has not won in graded company yet, but registered a mild upset win over the talented Upperline in the March 31 Bayou Handicap over the Fair Grounds lawn. The Mike Maker pupil's most recent stakes triumph came in the Ellis Park Turf in July.
Others of note in the field of seven are Forest Uproar, whose last victory came in the Marie G. Krantz Memorial over this course and distance in January 2011, and the three-year-old Francisca, a fast-closing second in her stakes debut in the November 24 Pago Hop.
Older males will also take their turn at about 1 1/16 miles on the turf in the $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap. In an intriguing field of seven, favoritism might fall on Grade 3 Dubious Miss, an eight-year-old who has placed five times at the Grade 3 level at Fair Grounds over the past several years. The gelding recently returned from an eight-month layoff, finishing second in an off-the-turf optional claimer at Churchill Downs where he ran for an $80,000 tag.
Canadian invaders James Street and Hotep, first and third, respectively, in the Grade 2 Autumn at Woodbine last out, figure to draw attention despite having more success on synthetics. James Street failed to place in either of his two previous starts on turf, while Hotep is just one-for-eight on the surface, though he did run a close second in the Grade 2 Nijinsky over the Woodbine turf in July.
The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Skyring is the only three-year-old in the field. A stakes winner on the Preakness Day undercard at Pimlico, the English Channel colt came close to earning Grade 3 laurels on three occasions this year, most recently in the River City Handicap at Churchill. Also in the field is stakes winner Strike Impact, runner-up in the 2011 Diliberto Memorial.
Another eight-year-old likely to be favored Saturday is Chamberlain Bridge, who will defend his title in the $75,000 Bonapaw at about 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. A former Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint hero, Chamberlain Bridge skipped this year's renewal at Santa Anita, but enters the Bonapaw off placings in the Grade 3 Woodford and Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap. The Bret Calhoun trainee has won five of eight over the Fair Grounds turf and has never finished worse than third locally.
Another horse for the course, the three-year-old Icon Ike, captured the Black Gold last March and exits a solid third in the November 23 Woodchopper. Others of note are Ready for More, who makes his stakes debut in the midst of a four-race win streak, and the synthetic specialists Hollywood Hit, a former Canadian champion sprinter, and China.Tour Guide, a last-out Churchill allowance winner for Calhoun, is the probable favorite in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl, a six-furlong dash for two-year-olds. The filly counterpart, the $60,000 Letellier Memorial, appears more wide open with Kentucky invaders Irish Lute, Brotherhood Singer and Finding More vying for favoritism along with Delaware Park stakes winner Coastal Sunrise.