Daisy Devine: Cinderella Story of the Oaks

From a $5,500 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase to grade II winner, Daisy Devine has proven to be a brilliant investment for owner James Miller’s two-horse stable. The retired oil company salesman now may just be in for the biggest ride of his life if the daughter of Kafwain were to cross the wire first on Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) day.

“It would be awesome—the thrill of a lifetime,” said Miller, a resident of Aiken, S.C. who has raced a handful of horses since 1984. “We’re just happy to win an allowance race every now and then, and (Daisy Devine going to the Oaks) just kind of snuck up on us.”

While Daisy Devine may be written off by some due to a lack of experience, the daughter Kafwain has proven herself to be a legitimate Oaks contender with a victory in the March 26 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), and her recent workouts have also been sharp. In one of her final tune-ups prior to the Run for the Lilies, she ran five furlongs in :59 3/5 over a sloppy Churchill Downs track and was clocked the fastest of 26 horses at that distance April 26. In all, she holds a record of 3-1-0 from five starts, for earnings of $359,788.

Daisy Devine was bred in Kentucky by Reiley McDonald, managing partner of Eaton Sales, and she was foaled and raised at McDonald’s private farm, Athens Woods, near Athens, Ky.

“She was always a good-sized filly, one of the faster ones in the field, though she wasn't an alpha type,” said AJ Dyer, who helped raise Daisy Devine. “Daisy was always enthusiastic and easy to work with. However, she could be a bit high-strung at times and mentally fragile. But she was an intelligent filly, and just needed a little patience.”

Daisy Devine as a foal, photo by AJ Dyer

Miller, 67, who will celebrate his five-year wedding anniversary with his wife, Debbie, on Oaks Day May 6, said the reason he picked out Daisy Devine at the sale was quite simplistic.

“Reiley said she would probably go at a favorable price because the sales were down and he was definitely going to sell her, so I bid on her and bought her,” said Miller, adding that at the same sale, he had bought another one of McDonald’s fillies, Maude S., who was born the same day as Daisy Devine and had been her paddock buddy as a foal.

Daisy Devine at the Keeneland September yearling sale

Another appealing aspect of Daisy Devine at the sale was the fact that seven of her siblings were already winners, including two stakes winners. McDonald said Daisy Devine’s dam, Devil’s Dispute, who has a 2-year-old El Corredor colt named Senor Peligroso, had to be euthanized last year due to a paddock accident.

Miller is now hoping Daisy Devine will continue to carry on her dam’s legacy, as is McDonald, who would count the filly as his second grade I winner to be foaled and raised at Athens Woods if she were to capture the Lilies. Visionaire, winner of the 2008 NetJets King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I), was also bred by McDonald and came off that farm.

It’s now a wait-and-see game to discover whether Daisy Devine, who rose from humble beginnings, will peak at just the right time.

“Really, she was sort of an average filly,” said McDonald of Daisy Devine’s appearance as a young horse. “As a yearling, she was average-sized with a decent shoulder and great hip. But I’d probably be exaggerating if I said she was an excellent physical. She’s just one of those fillies that happens to have a huge amount of heart and really good tactical speed.”

Daisy Devine during her early days at Athens Woods

Click here, here , here, and here to see some other Oaks-related features I have written for our website.

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