04/28/2010 11:00PM

Nine months in the making

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Barbara D. Livingston
Devil May Care won the Frizette at 2 and the Bonnie Miss at 3 and will try to be the fourth filly to win the Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. The plan to run the filly Devil May Care in Saturday s 136th Kentucky Derby may have been finalized Monday, but its origins date back to last summer.

On the morning of Aug. 16 at Saratoga, the then-unraced Devil May Care worked five furlongs in 59.65 seconds out of the gate at Saratoga. It was the fastest of 40 works recorded that morning.

She galloped out as strongly as any 2-year-old I ve ever had, Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Devil May Care, said this week. At that point, I said, Wow, this is a very talented filly.

Still, the third Saturday in August with an unraced juvenile filly is a long way from the first Saturday the following May. A lot has to go right for a filly or colt to make it into the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. With two notable exceptions, most everything has gone right for Devil May Care in the last eight months. And when things went wrong for the top 3-year-old colt Eskendereya last week, the Derby and not Friday s Kentucky Oaks became the race of choice for Devil May Care.

When you get an exceptional animal, you ve got to give them a chance to do exceptional things, said John Greathouse, whose family-run Glencrest Farm owns Devil May Care. I guarantee you the people that owned Rachel [Alexandra] last year, knowing now what they know, would have loved to have won the Derby instead of the Oaks.

Devil May Care, who won the Grade 1 Frizette at 2 and the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss at 3, will attempt to become the fourth filly to win the Kentucky Derby, joining Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980), and Winning Colors (1988). She will try to become the third filly in the last four years to win a Triple Crown race. In 2007, Rags to Riches also trained by Pletcher won the Belmont Stakes. Last year, Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness.

Devil May Care will be the 40th filly to compete in the Derby. In 2008, the filly Eight Belles finished second to Big Brown but broke down while galloping out and was euthanized on the track. That sparked some debate on whether fillies should compete against colts in the classics.

The unfortunate incident of a couple of years ago it had nothing to do with her being a filly, Greathouse said. They want to say fillies try harder against the colts. That is probably the dumbest statement I ve ever heard.

Glencrest purchased Devil May Care for $110,000 out of the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. Devil May Care is a daughter of Malibu Moon out of the Red Ransom mare Kelli s Ransom. Glencrest attempted to pinhook her at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old select sale at Calder in 2009 but bought her back after the bidding stopped at $375,000. Her reserve was set at $600,000.

Greathouse said his family had two fillies in that sale and sold one a daughter of Giant s Causeway out of the Lasting Approval mare Yard Art for $600,000 earlier in the sale. That filly, Dreamingly, finished sixth in her debut at Gulfstream in February.

I wanted to keep one of the fillies, Greathouse said. Devil May Care, he said, happened to be the one I kept.

Greathouse said he had to take a chip out of Devil May Care s ankle before she made it to the races. She had been with Pletcher about 90 days when she overcame a slow start to win a maiden race at Saratoga by 4 3/4 lengths in the slop Aug. 29. Six weeks later, Devil May Care overcame a bobble at the start to win the Frizette by a head at Belmont.

Though Greathouse felt Devil May Care had lightened up following the Frizette, he decided to run her in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita to give her a shot at becoming champion 2-year-old filly. Devil May Care didn t care for Santa Anita s Pro-Ride surface and finished 11th of 12.

When Devil May Care returned to the track at Palm Meadows this winter, she was training so well that Pletcher convinced Greathouse to nominate her to the Triple Crown. Pletcher had the Belmont Stakes in mind for her because she reminded him a bit of Rags to Riches.

They re both very efficient movers, and you can tell they have natural stamina, Pletcher said.

Any Triple Crown aspirations for Devil May Care appeared to be dashed when she finished fifth in the Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds in February. Things happened before the race, however, that led Pletcher to ignore the result. Devil May Care was anxious in the post parade, and jockey Javier Castellano riding her for the first time jumped off the filly at the gate. The Fair Grounds gate crew put tongs on the filly s ears and held her tail in the starting gate. She never ran a jump.

Devil May Care continued to train well in the weeks following the Silverbulletday. She ran to her training in the Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream on March 20, drawing off to a 2 3/4-length victory despite veering in after passing Amen Hallelujah in the stretch. Her final time of 1:49.06 was .13 of a second faster than Ice Box ran in the Florida Derby two races later.

Though Pletcher trained the best 3-year-old colt in the country in Eskendereya, he never discounted the Derby for Devil May Care. Greathouse, however, said the only way she would run was if he secured the services of John Velazquez, who was the regular rider of Eskendereya. Velazquez became available when Eskendereya suffered a leg injury.

Though it is unorthodox to change equipment following a graded stakes victory, Pletcher is putting blinkers on Devil May Care, attempting to keep her focused and straight.

To me she s always trained great, so it s a little hard to know, said Pletcher, when asked how much the blinkers have helped Devil May Care in her training. If she were fortunate to make the lead at some point, I think she s more likely to keep her focus moving forward instead of looking around.

For Greathouse, 66, this Derby bid comes 50 years after Venetian Way won the 1960 Kentucky Derby, bred by Greathouse s father, John W. Greathouse. The Greathouses were last represented in the Kentucky Derby in 1982 with Wavering Monarch, who finished 12th.

I remember when we ran Wavering Monarch in the Derby, we were asking a horse to do way too much way too fast, but being a participant in the big show was nerve-shattering, Greathouse said. My nerves won t be as shattered this time around. This filly is coming up to this race the right way. She s going to give a good account of herself.

Greathouse rarely shies away from a bet. He claims to have a future-bet ticket on Devil May Care at 250-1.

If there was a downside to this, I d say she s a little bit on the green side, Greathouse said. I think that anybody that would leave her out of any of their exactas, trifectas, and superfectas are going to have a worthless ticket at the end of Saturday.