When trainer Cherie DeVaux and her team mapped out their goals for 2020, they focused on preparing the stable for a good showing at Keeneland’s spring meeting.
The Keeneland plan didn’t come to fruition – canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic - but on Opening Day at Churchill Downs Saturday, DeVaux proved she had her horses spot on when scoring a double under the twin spires. The success came late in the card when Dinar bolted home by 2 3/4 lengths for his second win in his last three starts. Three races later, promising 3-year-old filly Reagan’s Edge made a late run against a field that wouldn’t be out of place in any stakes to win by a head.
“The plan that we had had originally was to get everything ready in Florida for the Keeneland meet when we got home,” DeVaux said. “We’d been primed so when everything happened and we couldn’t get here to Keeneland, we got a little bit worried about if our plan was going to work, especially with horses. I’m really relieved that the plan worked and that we made it through our whole winter and the goals we set out to achieve, we’re starting to meet them right off the bat.”
Even more rewarding for DeVaux was the individual wins by the pair for various reasons.
Dinar had proved to like Kentucky tracks with the 4-year-old Union Rags colt never finishing off the board in his five starts in the state, including his maiden victory last November. DeVaux said Dinar always tries but has had various obstacles to overcome and her team was puzzled when he finished 10th at Gulfstream Park in his 2020 debut.
While the issue seemed to be the colt not adapting to the track, DeVaux was happy to see him back to his old self Saturday.
“He just didn’t seem to get along with it,” she said. “He has always trained like he has the potential to be a very nice horse. He’s had some obstacles we’ve had to get over throughout the years with him but I’m very happy that he came and redeemed himself after such a poor effort.”
As for Reagan’s Edge, if the filly hadn’t performed well DeVaux joked she was expecting to come home to locked doors when returning from Churchill Saturday night. Owned by DeVaux’s husband David Ingordo, the filly essentially runs for DeVaux’s stepdaughter Reagan.
The 3-year-old Competitive Edge filly bounced back from a third last out for her second victory in three career races. The family didn’t celebrate the win at the track due to the restrictions at Churchill Downs, but Reagan celebrated by having DeVaux make her pancakes Sunday morning.
“(Reagan’s Edge) ran a really good race off the bench (at Gulfstream Park) and it was a different dimension,” she said. “When she broke her maiden she went to the lead and just increased her position from there and at Gulfstream she sat off the pace and made a nice run and learned a lot from that. She put it all together yesterday. It’s really nice and exciting because she is our family horse – she is my stepdaughter’s horse so for the family it was really fun to share with them.”
DeVaux said both winners came out of their races well and were looking good Sunday. Their schedule is now in limbo until more stakes schedules come out. DeVaux is looking at aiming Dinar at the potential Keeneland summer meet with the colt needing extra time between starts and the timing looking perfect.
Her family will also have plenty to look forward to in coming months with Reagan’s Edge also possibly aiming at a stakes next out.
“We really do have to consider putting her in a stakes and giving her a chance,” she said. “She ran such a nice race yesterday against very legitimate horses, it was not an easy race at all on dirt or turf. She put in a performance where she deserves a chance to see how good she can be against tougher company, so we will definitely be looking at that for her.”
Based out of Keeneland, DeVaux looks to have an exciting Churchill meet but is even more excited about returning home to her adopted state and having a place to run her horses.
“Getting back and up and running is very important for (Kentucky’s) economy across the board,” she said. “Racing is what drives the bus of our whole existence. They have done a very good job at Keeneland and Churchill at getting everyone screened. There is a lot of worry when you have such an influx of people from different places. Everyone has done a really good job and I’m extremely happy to be home and racing.”
Horse to Watch: It had been 559 days since Monomoy Girl was last seen in a race when winning the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs. But the 5-year-old mare didn’t seem to have much rust to brush off when winning her 2020 debut in a Churchill allowance by an easy 2 3/4 lengths Saturday.
The champion 3-year-old filly of 2018 had seen multiple setbacks that kept her from racing in 2019. After Saturday’s win trainer Brad Cox admitted he had doubts she’d ever make a return when the mare had another setback in September. He credits owners Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stable for their willingness to give it another shot.
“I was starting to doubt her return (in September),” Cox said. “I remember when it happened when she just wasn’t right after a work in September. I thought that was going to be the end of her career on the racetrack and she’d become a mom but these guys that own her are game and it’s good for the sport to see her return to the races.”
Monomoy Girl joins Stellar Wind (2015), Untapable (2014), Beholder (2013), and Royal Delta (2011) as 3-year-old champion fillies to return for 5-year-old campaigns in the last 10 years.
Stakes of the Week: Maryland-bred Double Crown made his stakes debut against multiple stakes winners Saturday but the son of Bourbon Courage rose to the challenge in Gulfstream’s Roar Stakes.
Taking on a field that included Grade 2 winner Green Light Go, the gelding raced right behind the leading Cajun Casanova in a tight field during the early portion of 6 1/2-furlong race. Double Crown lugged in slightly on Green Light Go in the stretch, leading to an objection by that foe’s jockey after winning by half-length. Trainer Kathy Ritvo and owner Reeves Thoroughbred Racing held their breath during the objection, which was disallowed and Double Crown officially registered his second victory in three starts.
“He’s coming along and doing well,” winning trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “We were just hoping he’d run to how he was training. He’s been doing so good. It was a big improvement last time and I’m not really sure he loved the mud, but he still ran good. He just loves to run.”
The victory was the second stakes win for apprentice jockey Cristian Torres, who won Gulfstream’s 2019-2020 Championship Meet’s apprentice title with 39 victories.
Maiden of the Week: The honor this week goes to a horse that wasn’t able to break his maiden the finale Sunday at Churchill.
Toshio, a 4-year-old Declaration of War who did not finish his lone prior start last September at Del Mar, improved significantly with a runner-up to Prince Jersey Town Sunday. Owned by KM Racing Enterprise Inc., Toshio made his debut for Phil D’Amato and was later sent to Bill Morey.
Toshio raced on the pace throughout the 6-furlong race and stayed there until the bitter end when dueling to the wire with Prince Jersey Town to lose by just a head. He’s posted bullet works in five of his last six works but won’t be a surprise if he needed this race to top him off and improves next out.
Handicapper's Report: "Garlic" Rob Whitlock turned in his best effort of the spring season Saturday, picking 14 winners from the 41 races handicapped by the team from The Saratoga Special. Rob's best showing came at Santa Anita, where he picked six winners from the 10 races Saturday. The winners were Affianced in the third, Ax Man in the fourth, Liberal in the fifth, Dogtag in the seventh, Heywoods Beach in the ninth and Sorriso in the finale.
Rob improved to 32-for-120 (26.7 percent) on the "season," which started with Saturday cards at Oaklawn Park in April and will continue through the spring and summer.
John Shapazian, annually Saratoga's leading handicapper and king of the Power Grid in the The Saratoga Special, also picked 14 winners Saturday. John picked three winners at both Churchill Downs and Santa Anita and four winners at both Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs. John leads the way with a record of 42-for-120, or 35 percent.
Tom Law held on to the second spot with 13 winners Saturday, including four at both Santa Anita and Gulfstream. He sits at 37-for-120 on the season, or 30.8 percent. Charles Bedard remains in third at 36-for-120 (30 percent) after also picking 13 winners Saturday. Charles' haul included five at Santa Anita.
The handicappers will be back, along with some guests, in the second edition of The 2020 Special for Saturday, May 23.
Bits and Pieces: The Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced the Preakness would be run Oct. 3, four weeks after the Kentucky Derby, during NBC’s broadcast window Saturday. … New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced Saturday that racing can return to the state for spectator-less racing June 1. With a return date now cemented, an announcement on the date for the Belmont Stakes is expected to come in the coming weeks. … Two horses at Woodbine reportedly tested positive for equine herpesvirus. The track is currently scheduled to start racing June 6. Woodbine already has procedures in place to help contain the virus after a 2013 EHV-1 outbreak at the track. … Last year’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks winner Bellafina returned to the winner’s circle Sunday with a victory in the Grade 3 Desert Stormer at Santa Anita.