03/26/2011 5:40PM

Fair Grounds Oaks: Patience pays off with Daisy Devine

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NEW ORLEANS -- The patience showed by trainer Andrew McKeever  paid dividends on Saturday when Daisy Devine, making her first start in two months, outfought St. John’s River after a prolonged stretch battle to win the Grade 2, $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

Daisy Devine ($11) was prominent throughout, and responded to the energetic handling of jockey James Graham to prevail by a half-length in this key prep for the May 6 Kentucky Oaks. Niji’s Grand Girl was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third, with favored Inglorious fourth.

Daisy Devine completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:44.25. McKeever trains her for James Miller.

“I think the key was skipping the Rachel Alexandra,” McKeever said, referring to last month’s major prep for the Fair Grounds Oaks. “She was fresh.”

And he will keep her fresh by waiting 41 days for her next start, in the Kentucky Oaks.

Daisy Devine provided McKeever, who is based here in the winter and Kentucky the rest of the year, with the biggest win of his career.

Daisy Devine, a daughter of Kafwain, has now won three times in five starts, including when risked for $30,000 in a maiden-claiming race in her second lifetime start. She won that race, with no takers.

Fair Grounds is where Daisy Devine has blossomed. After defeating maidens on Dec. 2, she won a first-level allowance race, then was second in the Silverbulletday, beaten just a neck after racing wide on both turns.

Inglorious, the Rachel Alexandra runner-up, was favored because of the absence of Kathmanblu, who won the Rachel Alexandra but bypassed this race. Inglorious, starting from the outside stall Saturday, was tucked in at the back of the pack heading into the first turn by jockey Chantal Sutherland, but then became aggressive turning up the backstretch and pulled her way into a contending position.

By the time the field hit the top of the stretch, though, Inglorious had lost her best punch and flattened out.