Derby Devil - By Dan Liebman

(Originally published in the May 1, 2010 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)    

If you toss a coin 24 times, and it lands on heads each time, what are the odds it will come up heads on the 25th try?

Since odds are based on the probability that something will occur, or is more likely to occur than something else, on the 25th try—in fact on every try—the odds are 50-50.

Horse racing also has odds, but the pari-mutuel system is different from simply tossing a coin, where it either lands on heads or tails.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has started 24 horses in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), which many point to as a dismal record in the country’s most famous race for a person likely headed someday to the Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Truth is Pletcher has never sent out the Derby favorite and 13 of his runners have gone postward at odds of 24-1 or higher. And to his credit he does have two seconds (Invisible Ink, 2001; Bluegrass Cat, 2006), a third (Impeachment, 2000), and two fourths (More Than Ready, 2000; Limehouse, 2004).

Obviously, Pletcher appeared to have his best chance this year, with a horse that would have been favored—Eskendereya. But the son of Giant’s Causeway was declared from the race April 25 after filling was discovered in his left front leg. Pletcher will still be represented by several other starters, including the filly Devil May Care.

As this was written, Pletcher also planned to saddle Derby starers Mission Impazible (winner of the Louisiana Derby, gr. II), Super Saver (2nd Arkansas Derby, gr. I), Discreetly Mine (Risen Star Stakes, gr. II), and possibly Interactif (second San Felipe Stakes, gr. II).

The comments about Pletcher’s Derby record remind this writer of a time when another hot topic was how trainer Bobby Frankel was 0 for 35 in Breeders’ Cup races prior to 2001. That year he broke through with Squirtle Squirt in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).

From 2002 to 2009, Frankel, a Hall of Famer who died last November at age 68, ran 41 horses in Breeders’ Cup races, among them five winners: Starine (’02 Filly & Mare Turf, gr. I); Ghostzapper (’04 Classic, gr. I); Intercontinental (’05 Filly & Mare Turf, gr. I); Ginger Punch (’07 Ladies’ Classic, gr. I); and Ventura (’08 Filly & Mare Sprint).

I believe Pletcher’s drought will end with a Devil May Care victory. She has the breeding to run long (Malibu Moon—Kelli’s Ransom, by Red Ransom), has the right style and temperament, and her works since she won the March 20 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) have been outstanding, including her last move, five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 at Churchill Downs April 24.

Devil May Care, owned by John Greathouse of Glencrest Farm near Midway, Ky., broke her maiden at first asking last August at Saratoga and then won the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park. In her final race at 2, she ran poorly in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) after having traffic problems and obviously not relishing the synthetic surface. In her first start at 3, she acted up in the gate and ran fifth in the Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III) before easily taking the nine-furlong Bonnie Miss.

Greathouse and Pletcher had been discussing the possibility of running Devil May Care in the Derby since January, so this certainly is no snap decision.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who won his first Derby with a filly (Winning Colors), has always said it is not about running a filly in the Derby, it is about running the right kind of filly in the Derby. Devil May Care is the right kind of filly.
Had Hal Wiggins made the same decision last year, perhaps Rachel Alexandra would have won the Derby instead of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).

Make it Devil May Care over Sidney’s Candy for the Derby exacta. 


Leave a Comment:


Yep, her 2 big clunker races should definitely be ignored.  That field of 12 in the BC caused her traffic problems.  She's not likely to have traffic problems in the Kentucky Derby.  We all know fields of 20 are so much easier to navigate than fields of 12.  Nor is she likely to act up in the starting gate in the Derby.  I'm certain that crowd of 150,000+ screaming fans will keep her nice and calm.

27 Apr 2010 3:30 PM

Devil May Care for the win ? You have to be kidding.  There is a thing called FOUNDATION.  This is a 2 horse race between Noble and LAL.

27 Apr 2010 4:36 PM
Carlos in Cali

She has a better chance of winning than 75%-80% of the field,IMO. She's big & strong and can run all day,the type that can tangle with  males & the traffic jam of the Derby. Pletcher said she's as good as his colts & holds her own in their workouts so whats the problem?..

Toss her BC race,she obviously didn't handle the surface like most dirt-track based horses do. A solid placing or a win wouldn't surprise me,she's pure class.

27 Apr 2010 5:46 PM

Glad you see it my way! I picked Devil May Care(saying if she runs) and Sidneys Candy days ago on another site. Everything you said about her is right on; tactical speed, high cruising ability and will run all day! She has it all and Johnnie V. certainly has enough experience in the Derby to be able to handle any situation. Now, all she needs is a good mid-field draw, a safe trip and it's down the stretch she comes. The Devil May Care with Sidneys Candy to a Stately Victor!

27 Apr 2010 6:11 PM

Blind Luck blasts Amen by 10 at Hollywood and Devil May Care comes back to beat Amen by two.  Blind Luck is about 20 ahead of the Devil in the Breeder's Cup.  She would have had trouble with Luck in the Oaks (who screams 1 1/8th) and won't be better than Lucky in the Derby.  The Pletcher Meri-Go-Round moves forward.  A very tall order for this filly.  

27 Apr 2010 7:15 PM

Lukas knew he had the right kind of filly.  Winning Colors just blasted the boys by 10 lenghts in the Santa Anita Derby.  That's pretty hard to ignore.  Would have like to have seen this one in some major Derby preps particularly with Pletcher being so confident she can handle the boys.  Did the Arkansas or Blue Grass come up that tough?

27 Apr 2010 7:20 PM

If your going to race a filly in a boys race then she should be saddled with the same weight.  Make it fair for everyone.  Its the owners choice to run her in the derby she should carry the same weight as the rest of the entrants.  Otherwise keep her where she belongs.

27 Apr 2010 7:41 PM
Robin from Maryland

As I've posted before, Pletcher couldn't win the Derby if he had 20 entries.  I'll go with Sidney's Candy or Looking at Lucky.  Here's to a safe trip for all.

27 Apr 2010 11:35 PM

If Pletcher said the filly had been handling Eskendereya in the morning, I'd be worried.  The rest of his horses have no chance.

28 Apr 2010 9:55 AM

For once I agree with Dray..kind of...I really like Nobles Promise.... but I also like Stately Victor on pedigree alone..

29 Apr 2010 2:38 PM
Pedigree Shelly

      Devil May Care is a very talented filly ! I don't think Todd P would run her if he didn't think she had the ability. I saw Mr Pletcher on HRTV today,he said the filly would be wearing blinkers in the Derby. This should really help , I hope . Todd was saying she could have won her races by alot more ,if she wasn't looking around and being concerned of the horses behind her . Best of Luck to All on Derby Day !

29 Apr 2010 7:40 PM

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