James Miller’s Grade I winning-filly Daisy Devine added Saturday’s 39th running of the Grade III, $111,500 Cardinal Handicap to her résumé with a determined front-running head victory over Julie’s Love-GB at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Andrew McKeever and ridden by Calvin Borel, Daisy Devine broke quick from the gate and dictated the pace through hand-timed fractions of :23.69, :47.32, 1:11.82 and 1:35.42. She opened a six-length lead down the backstretch along the hedge and dug in to meet the bid of Julie’s Love while leaving the final turn. The two matched strides down the stretch of the Matt Winn Turf Course but a stubborn Daisy Devine was resolute.
Churchill Downs’ teletimer malfunctioned during the race, but Daisy Devine was hand-timed for the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:47.29, which would eclipse Bail Out Becky’s 1996 stakes record of 1:47.81.
The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Kafwain, who was the 122-pound starting high weight, paid $6.20, $3.60 and $3.40 as the 2-1 second choice. Julie’s Love-GB, a 6-1 shot ridden by Joe Rocco Jr. while toting 117 pounds, returned $6.60 and $4.60. Last Full Measure, at 22-1 and 115 pounds with Jon Court aboard, was another 3 ¼ lengths back in third and paid $6.60. Fugitive Angel, 9-5 favorite Bizzy Caroline, Revelstroke, Indian Pond, Affair Dabbler and La Cloche completed the order of finish.
The Cardinal, named for Kentucky’s state bird, was the fourth graded-stakes win of Daisy Devine’s career. She won the Grade I Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in April after collecting 2011 victories in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks and Grade III Valley View.
She entered the Cardinal off a runner-up effort in the First Lady (GI) at Keeneland on Oct. 6, which was her first race since a fifth-place finish in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII) on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard.
Saturday’s triumph was worth $66,365, which boosted Daisy Devine’s earnings to $901,281. Overall, she has won 8 of 15 starts with two seconds and one third. One of her unplaced finishes came in the 2011 Kentucky Oaks (GI) when she finished seventh of 13.
For Miller and McKeever, it was their first Churchill Downs stakes wins. Meanwhile, Borel collected his 4,993rd career win. The three-time Kentucky Derby-winner is attempting to become the 26th jockey to join the elite 5,000-win club.
Racing at Churchill Downs continues Sunday with a 10-race program that begins at 12:40 p.m. ET. Breeders’ Cup champions with Churchill Downs ties will be paraded at the home of the Kentucky Derby between the seventh and eighth races at approximately 3:40 p.m. on Sunday. They include Wise Dan (Mile), Fort Larned (Classic), Groupie Doll (Filly & Mare Sprint) and Little Mike (Turf). Tapizar (Dirt Mile) was scheduled to appear but was scratched when he was sold and subsequently retired to Gainesway Farm.
CARDINAL HANDICAP QUOTES
Andrew McKeever, trainer of Daisy Devine, winner: “I didn’t know the fractions, but I figured he (jockey Calvin Borel) knew what he was doing. 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.
“The big relief is that she can go further than 1 1/16 miles. She came out of that last race (First Lady at Keeneland) 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.”
Q. When they crossed the line, did you think she won? “I knew she won.”
Calvin Borel, jockey on Daisy Devine, winner: “I thought (going to the lead) was the right thing to do. She looked like the speed in the race. I was a little concerned about whether she could get 1 1/8 miles. He (Andrew McKeever) didn’t seem too concerned. He just told me to save a little pony for the final forty or fifty yards.”
Q. What were you thinking when Julie’s Love-GB came running at you? “I was happy because she (Daisy Devine) is a filly that, if you challenge her, she’ll dig in.
Q. Did you think you won the photo? “Yes. I knew I had won it.”
Graham Motion, trainer of Julie’s Love-GB, runner-up: (via telephone) “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.
“I was very pleased. It hasn’t been an ideal week for her because she’s been over at Keeneland. But, all things considered, I think she handled everything really well.”
Q: She’s taken some real steps forward for you … “She definitely has. The only thing I don’t understand about her is that one poor race at Belmont (a last-place finish in the GIII Noble Damsel on Sept. 15). I have no comprehension of why she ran so poorly that day because every other race she’s run has been extremely consistent. But, let’s face it: this was a competitive enough Grade III to have run into a filly like that (Daisy Devine).”
Joe Rocco Jr., rider on Julie’s Love-GB, runner-up: “The winner was out on the lead and I had to tuck-in or I was going to be hung four-wide on the first turn. We wanted to be close, but on the backside there was separation between them. I let her run up to put some pressure (on Daisy Devine) and she was game all the way to the wire. We got past her – briefly. But the other filly dug back in. But our filly ran really game.”
Ken McPeek, trainer of Bizzy Caroline, fifth as 9-5 favorite: “She didn’t fire, and I’m not sure why. I was going between whether we wanted to go shorter or longer. She’s run well at a lot of distances, but it seems like when things go against her she doesn’t run as well. We’ll probably scope her and check her out.”
Q: She has always run so well here, it was surprising that she didn’t show up… “She ran a similar race in Chicago this summer in the Modesty (GIII at Arlington Park). She’s just hit and miss, but she’s had a good season.”
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