CARDINAL HANDICAP | PURSE: $111,500 | 3-YEAR-OLD & UP | GRADE 3 | 1 1/8 MILES (TURF)
James Miller's Daisy Devine captured the Grade 3, $111,500 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday in thrilling fashion. The Andrew McKeever trainee went gate-to-wire, holding off Julie's Love in the stretch to win by a head.
"I didn't know the fractions, but I figured he [jockey Calvin Borel] knew what he was doing," 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."
The four-year-old filly broke straight to the lead, posting fractions of :23 3/5, :47 1/5 and 1:11 4/5. Daisy Devine had a six-length lead at the half-mile mark but that lead almost vanished by the time she reached the three-quarter mark as her lead dwindled down to only a length. Just when it looked like the bay filly might be spent, she refused to give up and dug in down the stretch to come away victorious.
"I thought [going to the lead] was the right thing to do," Borel said. "She looked like the speed in the race. I was a little concerned about whether she could get 1 1/8 miles. [McKeever] didn't seem too concerned. He just told me to save a little pony for the final 40 or 50 yards."
Daisy Devine carried 122 pounds, giving four to eight pounds to her competition. The daughter of Kafwain covered the 1 1/8 miles over the firm turf in 1:47 1/5 with Borel aboard. She returned $6.20, $3.60 and $3.40 as the 2-1 second choice.
Another 3 1/4 lengths behind Julie's Love was Last Full Measure. Fugitive Angel, Bizzy Caroline, Revelstoke, Indian Pond, Affair Dabbler and La Cloche rounded out the order of finish.
Daisy Devine started her career on dirt but has found her success to be on the turf. Her first attempt on grass was in the Grade 3 Valley View at Keeneland in October 2011, where she sprung a 43-1 upset by a half-length. The bay filly went on to win her next three races, all of which were on turf and included the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley, before a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile in May. She wasn't seen for again for six months, returning for a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland on October 6 last out, and moved her career mark to 15-8-2-1, $901,281.
"The big relief is that she can go further than 1 1/16 miles," McKeever said. "She came out of that last race [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."
Daisy Devine was bred in Kentucky by J. Reiley McDonald and fetched a mere $5,500 at the 2009 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. She was produced by the Devil's Bag mare Devil's Dispute, who also reared the stakes-winning Patent Pending.
Daisy Devine's second dam is Grade 2 winner Impetuous Gal, the dam of multiple Grade 1-winning producer Banker's Lady and Grade 3 winner Idabel. Also hailing from this family are Grade 1 winner Ecton Park and multiple Grade 2 hero Banker's Gold.