Daisy Devine would not be denied a return to the winner's circle Nov. 10, taking the $111,500 Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs by a head after a ding-dong battle with Julie's Love (VIDEO).
Making her second start off a layup and second last time out in the Oct. 6 First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland, Daisy Devine led all the way under jockey Calvin Borel in the 1 1/8-mile turf event against eight other fillies and mares. Her grand-dam, Impetuous Gal, won the race in 1979.
Although Churchill Downs’ teletimer malfunctioned during the race, Daisy Devine was hand-timed for the distance on firm turf in 1:47.29, which would eclipse Bail Out Becky’s 1996 stakes record of 1:47.81.
"I didn’t know the fractions, but I figured (Borel) knew what he was doing," trainer Andrew McKeever said. "I told him, ‘If you have to go to the front, then go.’ She likes to stalk, really, but it doesn’t make any difference because she’s such a good filly."
It was the filly's first victory for McKeever since an April 14 score in the Jenny Wiley (gr. IT) at Keeneland, shortly after which she went to the shelf for five months. It was also a first Churchill stakes score for McKeever and owner James Miller, and win number 4,993 for Borel, who looks to become the 26th jockey to join the elite 5,000-win club.
“The big relief is that she can go further than 1 1/16 miles," McKeever said. "She came out of that last race (the First Lady) really good. It’s hard to bring a horse back off such a big race like that, but she really bounced back. It was big. She’s a heck of a filly."
Sent off at odds of 2-1, the 4-year-old daughter of Kafwain sailed through opening fractions of :23.63 and :47.32 while opening up a six-length gap, completely relaxed under looping reins and Borel. Bizzy Caroline, favored at 9-5, contended along the inside and was second at the half-mile pole, but lacked response when called upon—"She's been hit or miss, but she's had a good season," trainer Kenny McPeek said.
As the field neared the turn for home, Julie's Love advanced from fourth under Joe Rocco Jr. to contest the leader, who was still a length in front after three-quarters in 1:11.82. But Daisy Devine proved unyielding after a prolonged stretch drive through a mile in 1:35.42, and held on gamely to get the score.
"I was happy because she is a filly that, if you challenge her, she’ll dig in," Borel remarked.
Of the runner-up, trainer Graham Motion said, "I thought she ran a huge race. I actually thought she had that filly’s number at about the eighth-pole, but the winner was very game."
Daisy Devine, the 122-pound highweight, returned $6.20, $3.60, and $3.40. Julie's Love brought $6.60 and $4.60, and Last Full Measure paid $6.60.
Bred in Kentucky by J. Reiley McDonald out of the Devil's Bag mare Devil's Dispute, Daisy Devine now has a 8-2-1 record from 15 starts, with earnings of $901,281.
Her other stakes scores, all notched in 2011, include the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), the Pin Oak Valley View Stakes (gr. IIIT), and the Pago Hop Stakes and Mardi Gras Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.