Daisy Devine disposed of pacesetter Grandacious leaving the far turn and held sway in the lane to win the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), a key prep race for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), by a half-length March 26 at Fair Grounds (VIDEO).
Ridden to victory by James Graham, Daisy Devine benefited from a freshening since a tough loss in the Silverbulletday Stakes Jan. 22 to record her first stakes win for owner James Miller and trainer Andrew McKeever. The daughter of Kafwain, a $5,500 Keeneland yearling in September 2009, defeated eight rival 3-year-old fillies in the 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds Oaks.
J. Reiley McDonald bred Daisy Devine in Kentucky.
Inglorious, the 6-5 favorite, was away last from the far outside as Grandacious, gunning from the rail, took the early lead over Daisy Devine. The pace -- :24.21 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.50 for the half and 1:13.14 for six furlongs -- was a slow one as Grandacious showed the way into a strong head wind on the backstretch with Daisy Devine drafting behind her.
Midway on the final bend, Daisy Devine ranged up on the outside to get control at the top of the lane and opened up a two-length advantage by mid-stretch. Under enthusiastic handling from Graham, she dug down to hold off the late-running St. John's River and Kent Desormeaux in the final furlong by three-quarters of a length. The final time was 1:44.25 on a fast track.
Niji's Grand Girl, ridden by Garrett Gomez, was 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third after rallying from last, edging Inglorious, who flattened out in the stretch for jockey Chantal Sutherland.
Daisy Devine was making her first start since finishing second by a neck to Bouquet Booth in the one-mile Sivlerbulletday, her stakes debut. She was bumped at the break and raced three to four paths wide that day, but just missed in a game effort at Fair Grounds. McKeever opted to skip the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) at the New Orleans track Feb. 19.
“She’d trained super going into the race,” McKeever said. “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.”
Daisy Devine earned $300,000 for the Fair Grounds Oaks win and boosted her career earnings to $359,788 with her third victory in five career starts. The bay filly is out of Devils's Dispute, by Devil's Bag.
Inglorious was favored in the Fair Grounds Oaks off her second-place finish to top Kentucky Oaks contender Kathmanblu in the Rachel Alexandra. Kathmanblu's trainer, Ken McPeek, opted to skip the Fair Grounds Oaks in favor of the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I) April 9 at Keeneland.
Four of the past six winners of the Fair Grounds Oaks have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks: Rachel Alexandra in 2009, Proud Spell (2008), Summerly (2005) and Ashado (2004). The $1 million Kentucky Oaks is May 6.
Daisy Devine paid $11, $5.40, and $3.80 as the second choice and topped a $71.80 exacta. St. John's River returned $8.60 and $5.20 in her stakes debut for trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. Niji's Grand Girl, coming off a third-place finish in the Florida Oaks for McPeek Feb. 12, was $3.80 to show.
Inglorious was followed by Grandacious, Tapit Dancer, Tourmaline, Switching Gears, and Little Miss Holly. Snow Fall scratched.