NEW ORLEANS (Tuesday, February 21, 2012) – James Miller’s Daisy Devine, cleverly ridden by Irish-born jockey James Graham, took advantage of a short field and a temporary rail set 22 feet away from its inside position that left Clark Brewster’s odds-on favorite Cherokee Queen somewhat tactically challenged and was able to draw off late for a 2 1/2-length tally in Fat Tuesday’s featured $75,000 Mardi Gras Handicap for older fillies and mares over Fair Grounds’ yielding Stall-Wilson turf course.
“I thought this was the perfect set-up,” said Daisy Devine’s Irish-born winning trainer Andy McKeever. “With the rail being out it is more conducive to speed.”
After alternating in an early pace maintained mostly by Lothenbach Stables’ Alluring Squall with splits of 24.66 and 50.61, Daisy Devine, who won last year’s Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks on the main track but may favor grass going, dispatched that rival and then easily held the older mare Cherokee Queen safe at the wire. The daughter of Kafwain has now won three straight over the lawn after taking Keeneland’s Grade III Valley View last Oct. 21 and then Fair Grounds’ $74,000 Pago Hop Stakes Nov. 26, but had not gone to the post since that Thanksgiving weekend performance until the Mardi Gras.
Daisy Devine returned mutuels of $4.80, $2.40 and $2.10, increased her career earnings to $578,349 with her sixth victory in 11 lifetime starts and toured the final distance in 1:47.19.
Cherokee Queen, scheduled for the breeding shed shortly, won Fair Grounds’ $75,000 Blushing K. D. and $75,000 Marie Krantz Memorial handicaps in her two previous local starts this winter in New Orleans. She paid $2.20 and $2.10 while John Paplaczyk and Edward Mallon’s Rose Medallion, who rallied to finish 1 3/4-lengths farther back, returned $2.60 to show.
Racing resumes Thursday at Fair Grounds with a nine-race program beginning at 12:40 p.m.