One of life’s great pleasures is when something exceeds all of our expectations. And, when Jim and Debbie Miller purchased a bay filly at the 2009 Keeneland Yearling Sale for $5,500, it didn’t occur to them that the daughter of Kafwain might one day eclipse the $1 million mark in earnings. Daisy Devine can become a millionaire in her next start in the 45th running of the Bayou Handicap on Feb. 23 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La. Daisy Devine has bankrolled $991,281.
“She’s awesome, and we’re looking forward to it,” said Jim Miller. “We like running Daisy from her home base.”
A winner of eight stakes races, including five at the Fair Grounds, Daisy Devine had the third fastest work out of 94 horses at a half-mile on Feb. 10 at the Fair Grounds, covering the distance in 48 4/5 seconds.
Daisy Devine has been nothing short of sensational. The filly was broken and trained in Aiken by Todd Turner at Chime Bell Farm, before being sent to Legacy Stable’s Brad Stauffer and Ron Stevens, who would condition the future Grade 1 winner over the Aiken Training Track, before being sent to the barn of Andrew McKeever at the racetrack.
However, if you were to judge the filly by her debut at Keeneland during her juvenile campaign, your initial impression based on her placing would have you thinking she was just another racehorse. But, first impressions aren’t always indicative of what’s below the surface.
The filly would break her maiden in her next start, and would score an allowance victory in the final race of her juvenile campaign.
“She set the world on fire,” said Miller. “We were shocked each time.”
McKeever realized the filly was capable of stepping up in class, and Daisy Devine’s connections thought she would need a litmus test to see where she might be in her training, and how competitive she would be against a higher caliber of equine athlete. Their questions were answered in her sophomore campaign debut, the Silverbullet Day Stakes at the Fair Grounds, a race where she would place second.
The filly seemed to have a predilection for the racetrack in the Crescent City, and after moving up in class in her previous start, the filly’s performance in the Grade 2, $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks silenced any critics she may have had, with a half-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile race.
“It was an unbelievable feeling when she won the Fair Grounds Oaks,” said Miller. “Each time, it seems as if she rises to the occasion.”
However, it would be some time before the filly would return to the winner’s circle as a 3-year-old. The heroine of the Fair Grounds couldn’t seem to find her stride in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks or Grade 3 Iowa Oaks, but would hit the board during the summer in the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks. It appeared the filly’s sophomore campaign had taken its toll, and some well deserved time off enabled Daisy Devine to overcome an abcess and hoof problems. When she returned to the races, the filly found herself competing over a different surface as McKeever switched Daisy Devine from the dirt to the turf. The graded stakes winner would contest the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Pin Oak Valley View Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 21, 2011, winning at odds of 43-1. It would be the first of four consecutive victories, all stakes wins as she would finish the year with a victory in familiar surroundings at the Fair Grounds in the Pago Hop Stakes.
“That’s where Andrew races,” said Miller. “He developed her, made her into the horse she is.”
A win in her 4-year-old debut, the Mardi Gras Handicap at the Fair Grounds, was a harbinger of what was yet to come. The filly would make her second Grade 1 start, returning to Keeneland for the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes, and there would be no denying Daisy Devine as jockey James Graham would confidently handle the multiple graded stakes winner guiding her to a gate-to-wire victory.
“It was unbelievable,” said MIller. “We would go into every race asking ourselves, ‘Why are we here? We’re way over classed.’ We didn’t have any idea of how important it is to win a Grade 1 race. We have thoughts of doing it this year (running her back in the Jenny Wiley), and we’ll see if she rises to the ocassion in the Bayou Handicap.”
The fall campaign found Daisy Devine running second in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland, and she would follow that effort with a gate-to-wire victory in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs. The filly would finish her 4-year-old campaign with a 6-length gate-to-wire score in the Blushing K.D. Handicap at the Fair Grounds. The filly’s front end running style, and her ability to repulse the challenge of her of her rivals played a role in her 1 3/4-length gate-to-wire victory in her 5-year-old debut, the Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 26. Daily Racing Form’s Mike Watchmaker has Daisy Devine ranked second in his Watchmaker Watch, in the Turf Female division.
“When she was younger she was the one that was the hunter, always looking to knock off the older horses,” said Miller. “Now, she’s the one with the target on her back. There are a bunch of younger horses coming after her.”
The Millers other horse, the graded stakes placed Maude S, is being pointed toward a race on March 16. The 5-year-old filly was broken and trained by Todd Turner at Chime Bell Farm, and was later sent to Legacy Stable’s Brad Stauffer and Ron Stevens.
The daughter of Jump Start won her last time out, a 1 1/16-mile race at Hawthorne on Dec. 14, and the Jimmy DiVito charge is currently in training at the Ocala Training Center, with her next start possibly coming at Tampa Bay Downs or Gulfstream Park.