12/20/2012 4:51PM

Fair Grounds: Daisy Devine finds herself in position of favorite for Blushing K.D.

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Daisy Devine, winning the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley in the spring at Keeneland, is the class of the Blushing K.D.

Daisy Devine has thrived as the underdog. Owner James Miller purchased her for a mere $5,500 as a yearling, one of the great bargains of recent seasons. Daisy Devine has gone on to win eight races and more than $900,000 in her 15-start career. In only two of those starts has she been favored, and the only time Daisy Devine was overwhelmingly expected to win, when she was 1-2 in the 2011 Iowa Oaks, she finished a distant fifth.

Saturday, in the Blushing K.D. Handicap on the grass at Fair Grounds, Daisy Devine is very much the hunted rather than the hunter; her price could drop as low as it did two summers ago in Iowa. She’s a Grade 1 winner in a $75,000 stakes race, a fact reflected in the assigned weights, with Daisy Devine conceding at least seven pounds to six rivals.

Daisy Devine isn’t the most accomplished horse racing on the first multiple-open-stakes day this Fair Grounds meet. That distinction goes to Chamberlain Bridge, a Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner with a career bankroll approaching $2 million. Chamberlain Bridge runs Saturday as the defending champion in the Bonapaw Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, where he’ll meet Hollywood Hit and Icon Ike. A third turf stakes, the Diliberto for 3-year-olds and up, should have Skyring, Hotep, and Dubious Miss as favorites, while 2-year-old sprinters see action in the Sugar Bowl, an open race, and the Letellier, for fillies.

Trained by Andrew McKeever, Daisy Devine has a new pilot Saturday in Brian Hernandez Jr., with James Graham having traveled to Ireland to attend to his ailing father and out until next week. On the face of things, Hernandez’s task seems straightforward: Daisy Devine drew the rail and has controlling speed in the Blushing K.D., a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares. Daisy Devine won the Fair Grounds Oaks on dirt two seasons ago and last meet captured a pair of turf stakes comparable in class to Saturday’s. She seems to thrive in New Orleans.

“She obviously loves it down here,” said trainer Andrew McKeever, who has guided Daisy Devine from her ascendance from maiden claimer to Grade 1 winner.

There is, however, another Fair Grounds turf-loving filly in the Blushing K.D. Artemus Kitten won two grass races last meet, including an impressive victory over the capable mare Upperline in the Bayou Handicap. She gets seven pounds from Daisy Devine and had a useful comeback prep race Nov. 30 at Turfway Park.

As for Chamberlain Bridge, he’s on the cusp of his ninth birthday, but a strong second half of 2012 suggests Chamberlain Bridge retains his edge.

“He’s very sound, very happy right now, and as long as he’s competitive at this level, we’ll keep leading him over there,” said trainer Bret Calhoun.

Chamberlain Bridge has won five of eight starts on Fair Grounds turf, and never has been worse than third. In the 2011 Bonapaw he led all the way while posting a one-length victory.

Six-year-old Hollywood Hit, one of the better synthetic-surface sprinters in North America, makes his first start for trainer Mike Stidham and tries grass for the first time. Stidham said Hollywood Hit has trained well over Fair Grounds dirt and is hopeful his form carries over to turf.

“To me, he comes across as a horse that will run on anything,” Stidham said. “He seems like he’ll handle any surface, but we’ll find out.”

Three-year-old Icon Ike has won three of four Fair Grounds turf races, and is turning back from a good effort in a route to a sprint distance he probably prefers. Zeb, Next Right Thing, and Global Power add depth, while Cash Refund will factor with a rain-off onto dirt.

The 1 1/16-mile Diliberto brings out Skyring – no surprise, since all Skyring does is run. The 3-year-old Wayne Lukas-trained colt is set to make his 16th start of 2012, and is back in action less than a month after racing twice in an eight-day span at Churchill, where he finished fourth in the Commonwealth and third in the River City. Hotep and Dubious Miss seem more likely winners. Dubious Miss never has finished worse than third in seven Fair Grounds turf starts, while Hotep’s best grass races over the summer at Woodbine would make him a major player.

Bind in long-awaited return

At least one non-stakes race on the card bears watching, the 10th, a first-level allowance that marks a long-awaited comeback by 4-year-old colt Bind. Bind won his career debut in February 2011 at Fair Grounds by almost 10 lengths, running one of the fastest six-furlong times of that meet. His career was derailed by injury, and Bind is set to race for the first time in more than 19 months.

◗ Brian Hernandez Jr. hurt his ankle when thrown from his mount before the fourth race Wednesday but did not suffer any broken bones and hopes to return to action Saturday.