Favorite Daisy Devine wins feature race at Fair Grounds

NEW ORLEANS — It was nip-and- tuck for a while, but 4-year-old filly and heavy favorite Daisy Devine pulled away for a huge win in the fifth running of the $75,000 Blushing K.D. Handicap turf stakes Saturday at the Fair Grounds Race Course.

Daisy came in at 4/5 odds, but she was challenged for about half the race by another 4-year-old filly, Necessary Luxury, who went off at 30/1 and tried to overtake the favorite from the outside as Daisy hugged the rail.

But Daisy Devine quickly pulled away around the final turn as Luxury faded badly. By the time Daisy crossed the finish line, she had put six lengths between her and the eventual second-place finisher, Forest Uproar, a 6-year-old mare.

“She’s just that much better,” said jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who was riding Daisy, a Kentucky filly, for the first time. “It was really just all her today. I was just a passenger.”

Daisy Devine’s owner, James M. Miller, was a little tense as he watched the race from the grandstand, especially as Necessary Luxury stuck right to his horse’s flank for much of the handicap.

“You’re always nervous,” he said as he welcomed Daisy and Hernandez off the track. “But she should have won the race, and she did.

“The Fair Grounds are great,” Miller added. “We love coming down here.”

Daisy Devine, who is trained by Andy McKeever, came in as the overwhelming favorite in the Blushing K.D. Handicap, having won the 2011 Fair Grounds Oaks and a slew of other contests leading up to Saturday. She ended up running against only four other horses in the Blushing, however, thanks to two pre-race scratches.

The Blushing K.D. Handicap, a one and 1/16th miler, was part of a 12-race card dubbed Super Santa Saturday at the Fair Grounds. The Blushing was the third race of the day, going off around 2 p.m., and the first of three $75,000 turf stakes at Super Santa Saturday.

The second of the three, the “Buddy” Diliberto Memorial Handicap, another one and 1/16th miler, was won by Strike Impact, an 8-year-old gelding who started at 5-1 odds. Strike was saddled by Shaun Bridgmohan and trained and co-owned by Patrick Dupuy.

The winner’s circle for the final $75,000 turf stakes of the day, the Bonapaw, a five-and-a-half-furlong dirt contest, was filled by China, a 5-year-old from Kentucky ridden by John Jacinto, who started at 10-1, the longest odds of the race. China is owned by Black Sheep Racing and trained by John Good.

China’s victory marked a minor comeback for Jacinto, who earlier in the day had fallen off his mount, Canofspots, in the second race of the card. Jacinto took the tumble after the contestants crossed the finish line, but fortunately the horses coming behind avoided him.

After laying on the dirt for a minute or two, Jacinto hopped up and left the track under his own power. The fall apparently didn’t impair the jockey’s abilities, judging from his win in the Bonapaw.

“I never thought we would be in the lead, but (China) broke so sharp, and I just kind of let him go, and the plan worked out great,” Jacinto said. “The whole run, a great race. He ran a big race for me today.”

The crown for the day’s other big contest, the second running of the $60,000, six-furlong dirt Sugar Bowl Overnight Stakes, was claimed by the favorite, Tour Guide, who went off at 7/5 odds. It marked the second significant win of the day for Hernandez, who captained Guide, a 2-year-old colt, to victory.

Tour Guide’s trainer, Bret Calhoun, said the mount has been getting better and better as the year has gone on, albeit gradually.

“He’s still growing and developing, and he’s doing it very slowly,” Calhoun said. “He’s a very fast horse, for sure, and we’ll just have to see if we can harness some of that speed and stretch it out.”

The card’s final major stakes race, the $60,000 Letellier Memorial Overnight Stakes, a six-furlong dirt contest, was won by 2-year-old filly Finding More, who went off at 9/2 and was jockeyed by Jacinto, who again showed no signs of wear and tear from his earlier fall. Finding More is owned by Daniel Kenny and trained by Kellyn Gorder.