05/15/2017 6:45PM

Giving the Devil His Due


He leads a relaxed life nowadays, far from the madding crowds - but such wasn't always the case.  24 years ago today, for instance - May 15, 1993 - devoted fans cheered him on when he powered home first in the G1 Pimlico Special.

His look was powerful, his name intimidating, his record extraordinary, his trainer legendary.  He ran Lasix-free, and his name is part of racing lore for literally taking a bite out of the IRS.  

He is Devil His Due.  Born April 18, 1989, the son of Devil's Bag - Plenty O'Toole, by Raise a Cup raced 41 times over a 4-year career.  He won 11 races, with 12 seconds, 3 thirds and earnings of $3,920,405.  Nearly all of his races were for owner Edith LeButti's Lion Crest Stable, and all were for revered trainer H. Allen Jerkens.

The registered dark bay or brown (equine color students consider him a 'true black') gave signs of being good early on but gave signs of being extraordinary when deadheating with Lure in the 1992 Gotham Stakes.  Watching the replay, one might wonder if perhaps his jockey, Herb McCauley, might have allowed Devil His Due to intimidate Lure and Mike Smith just a bit...but an inquiry was disallowed and the results stood.

Above:  Devil His Due (Herb McCauley) and Lure (Mike Smith) deadheat in the 1992 Gotham at Aqueduct.  What a race!

Below: His then-groom Artie celebrates the decision

Above:  Devil His Due and Mike Smith after their win in the 1992 Wood Memorial (G1)

Devil His Due came back to win the Wood.  This time, Mike Smith was on Devil His Due, and an Allen Jerkens' quote about the jockey switch is classic Allen:  "I don't know why McCauley got off my horse. But I wound up with the leading rider around here, so how can I complain?" (McCauley opted to ride morning-line favorite Thunder Rumble, who was scratched the morning of the race). Yet the sun didn't shine on Devil His Due's old Kentucky home that first Saturday in May, when he struggled home twelfth in the Derby.

Over the next few seasons Devil His Due ran competitively in stakes after stakes, and fans grew to adore the bold, proud, black powerhouse with rich brown eyes he inherited from his sire Devil's Bag and grandsire Halo.   Devil His Due clearly knew he was "all that," and who didn't love Jerkens?  And while he didn't always win, Devil His Due racked up quite a few stakes wins: In 1993, he won the G1 Gulfstream Park Handicap, G2 Excelsior Handicap, the G1 Pimlico Special and the G1 Suburban; and in 1994 he added the G3 Broward Handicap, the G2 Brooklyn and another G1 Suburban.  And although his 5-year-old season was abbreviated - just three starts - he ran second in two stakes, including to Cigar in the G1 Pimlico Special.

Above:  Devil His Due at Saratoga in 1993

Above/below:  Devil His Due, with Herb McCauley up, winning the 1993 Pimlico Special (G1) and in the Pimlico winner's circle

Above:  With Mike Smith up, Devil His Due takes the 1994 Suburban (G2) by over 8 lengths at odds of 2-1

Oh, and remember that IRS thing I mentioned earlier?  That was actually why Devil His Due even had a 5-year-old season.  There was question as to whether the horse's owner, Edith LiButti, was the full owner of Devil His Due or if perhaps her father Robert held an undisclosed interest in the horse.  Mr. LiButti owed the government $4.39 million in back taxes, and the IRS wanted to make sure things were on the square.  They even sent an IRS agent to Saratoga in 1994 to place a lien on the horse just days before the Devil ran in the Whitney.  Legend goes that Allen warned the agent to stay back from the horse, but, undeterred, the agent approached.  Devil His Due bit him.

I didn't ask Allen's son Jimmy to about that story, which appears in articles but seems too good to be true.  I love Allen Jerkens' tales and want to leave them as grand as they've been told and retold.  But I did, however, ask Jimmy about the Devil's demeanor while he was racing.

"He was very hard to rub on while being groomed and was a hard biter while getting his bath," Jimmy responded.  "But outside of that he was like any other stud when he was racing fit.  I rode with him on the van all the way from Belmont to Oaklawn and handled him the whole time he was there, and he was a gentleman.

"But he WOULD bite.  And he meant it."

The IRS basically held the horse's ownership for months, even sending an agent to the races in which he competed.  In the meantime, Devil His Due couldn't retire until his ownership was clear.  The IRS basically kept him in training, and he kept earning money.  The training and race selections were left up to Allen, who clearly didn't mind having their stable star around for longer.

"I just love the horse," he told The Washington Post.  "It's nice to have him around another year."

Eventually, however, a recurrent ankle injury eventually necessitated Devil His Due's retirement.

Above:  Devil His Due feeling good at age 19 at Margaux Farm

With a solid pedigree, good looks and stellar accomplishments - and with stallion ads justifiably boasting that he ran Lasix-free - Devil His Due proved popular from the start.  Although he didn't sire a slew of "big" horses, he produced many winners - 678 from his 1049 foals of racing age, including 41 black-type winners and two champions (in Panama and Equador).Standing tall among his US runners was the earner of $5,490,187, Roses in May; and among the names appearing on Devil His Due's broodmare sire honor roll is the winner of nearly $6.5 million, Game On Dude.

As Frank Mitchell wrote in 2004 for the Daily Racing Form, "Devil His Due has climbed to national prominence as a sire because of the soundness and athleticism of his runners.  And winners at the track bring breeders to the stallion." 

Devil His Due's final crop came in 2014.  Allen Jerkens died the following year.

Devil His Due, 28, still resides at his longtime Margaux Farm home in Midway, Kentucky.  Now owned by Jim and Susan Hill, Margaux has shifted its focus in recent years and, although they still have facilities for broodmares, the farm no longer stands stallions.  Nowadays, it is a top-class and popular boarding and training facility, with all-weather surfaced European-style gallops and several training tracks.  

The old stallion barn sits mostly empty, save for the occasional quarantined horse on the far side.  In a nearby yard, Devil His Due's old barn mate Cryptoclearance's remains lie beneath a stone bearing his name.  And in the barn's front left corner, Devil His Due remains.  

Margaux executive assistant Cortney Schuble and groom R.J. Bernabe are both far younger than I and both admit that, until they joined the Margaux team, they weren't familiar with Devil His Due or, for that matter, Allen Jerkens.  

R.J. and fellow groom Juan Sanchez tend to the stallion's daily needs.  Devil His Due is still taken out to his sizable paddock daily.  He is bathed regularly, which he clearly enjoys.  He eats special feed designed for stallions, the blacksmith trims his feet regularly and and all of his health needs are met.  The farm still tweets occasional photos of their aged pensioner, and Cortney says some of his longtime fans still visit him.

It was clear when R.J. brought Devil His Due outside recently that the old boy had slowed down since I saw him nine years ago.  His back is a bit swayed, he preferred walking on the grass than the pavement, he kept his head lower and had no desire to zoom around when turned loose in his paddock.  A star has sprouted on his face, but his eyes still glowed in that old, familiar way.  You can still see the Grade 1 winner therein and, with his still proud bearing, it seems he still remembers who he is.  He is still magnificent.

"I ended up doing my research on him and got a little background on him," says R.J. admiringly.  R.J., who's only been at Margaux for a half-year or so, previously worked at Darley and Airdrie Stud.  "He likes to be really lazy at points. There are actually times where he’ll be out in the field and just lay there and look at you.

"I speak with him in both Spanish and English. He likes to go ahead and play and try to bite at me sometimes," R.J. says with a smile, "but he's a real sweetheart."

Above/below:  The stallion barn in which Devil His Due resides

Above:  Devil His Due with R.J. Bernabe

Above/below:  Devil His Due with Juan Sanchez

Above:  Juan Sanchez removes Devil His Due's halter after his paddock time on April 21, 2017

Above:  Devil His Due at age 3 (Saratoga), 19 (Margaux Farm) and 28 (Margaux)

Thank you to Cortney Schuble, R.J. Bernabe, Juan Sanchez and everyone at Margaux Farm for their kindness.  Thanks to Jimmy Jerkens for his remembrances of Devil His Due.  And thank you to Allen Jerkens and Devil His Due, for all they have given to our sport.

Devil His Due's 1994 Brooklyn Handicap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3jjhTHe3nI

Devil His Due's 1993 Suburban Handicap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-B2aFSnAMb8

A 2011 Margaux Farm video of Devil His Due, when he was still standing at stud: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5vUlmezqk