11/08/2012 2:38PM

Churchill Downs: Daisy Devine looks tough in Cardinal Handicap


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – There will be a lot of talk about the Cardinals – and the Cardinal – at Churchill Downs on Saturday. The first is an unbeaten college football team after nine games, and the second is a handicap with nine fillies and mares.

The undefeated University of Louisville squad will kick off their game at Syracuse at noon Eastern, which should give multi-tasking sports fans plenty of time to focus on the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap, the ninth of 10 Saturday races at Churchill. First post is 12:40 p.m. Eastern, with the Cardinal set for 4:37.

Daisy Devine, winner of the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in April and most recently a close second to Tapitsfly in the Grade 1 First Lady last month at Keeneland, is the 122-pound highweight in the $100,000 Cardinal, which goes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Andrew McKeever trains 4-year-old Daisy Devine for Jim Miller, who has owned horses for nearly 30 years and now lives in Aiken, S.C. McKeever acknowledged that bettors typically give his stable star about as much respect at the windows as U of L has been getting in the football polls – which is to say, not all that much. Despite her 7-for-14 record and career bankroll of nearly $835,000, Daisy Devine seldom has been favored and has twice won at 40-1 or higher.

“I guess I prefer it that way as opposed to people thinking she’s unbeatable,” said McKeever, a 46-year-old Irishman who ships between Keeneland and Fair Grounds during the year. “But she doesn’t know anything about that. She just goes out and runs her race.”

Daisy Devine, with Calvin Borel to ride from post 4, will carry reasonably high expectations Saturday. She figures to be favored, perhaps mildly so, over eight other fillies and mares when spotting them between 4 and 8 pounds. She is entered off a half-length defeat in the Oct. 6 First Lady, a one-mile race also contested by such accomplished fillies as Hungry Island and Summer Soiree. Daisy Devine has had three workouts since then, all over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland.

“She’s been training very well with no problems at all,” McKeever said. “Calvin breezed her [Oct. 25] and came back happy. There are two or three fillies in against us that look very capable, and I’m respectful of them. We’ll just have to see if our filly can produce that Grade 1 form again that can put her on top.”

Among the chief threats to Daisy Devine are Bizzy Caroline (post 1, Corey Lanerie), who has won 3 of 4 starts over the local turf course and exits the Grade 1 Flower Bowl; La Cloche (post 2, Junior Alvarado), winner of the Grade 3 Athenia last out at Belmont Park; and Julia’s Love (post 9, Joe Rocco Jr.), a consistent British-bred trained by Graham Motion.

The rest of the Cardinal lineup includes Revelstoke, Affair Dabbler, Last Full Measure, Indian Pond, and Fugitive Angel.

This is the 39th running of the Cardinal, which was first held in 1974, well before the installation of the Churchill turf course. The winner last year was Deluxe, who prevailed on the Sunday after the Breeders’ Cup for Juddmonte Farms and trainer Bill Mott.

Television monitors throughout Churchill will have ABC coverage of the 11th-ranked Cardinals.