The 15.10-1 bay daughter of Daredevil, ridden aggressively by Florent Geroux, sat comfortably in second behind expected frontrunner and 7-10 favorite Gamine before overtaking a pacesetter that proved to be no match for the mile-and-an-eighth distance.
“She was all heart down the lane. I'm very proud of her,” said jubilant trainer Brad Cox, who grew up not far from iconic Churchill Downs and aspired to be part of racing at a young age.
For many, it was a perplexing result in the strangest of years. Shedaresthedevil, whose previous claim to fame was a couple of Grade 3 victories, returned to the winner’s circle with only a smattering of applause since the COVID-19 pandemic prevented fans from attending the nation’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies.
Then there was the calendar. The tradition-rich Oaks, a Grade 1 contest with a purse of $1.25 million, is customarily run on the first Friday in May rather than the first Friday in September. But the virus turned the season upside down – leaving the timing to be perfect for Shedaresthedevil.
How much of a turnaround did the winner do? How much did the current timeframe favor her?
On May 1, she finished third in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park, whipped by fellow Oaks starter Swiss Skydiver by 13 ¼ lengths. Still, Cox kept the faith. He had been convinced since early in the year that the speed and stamina were there to get the job done in the Oaks.
“We were pointing for this really since March, when she won the Honeybee,” Cox said of a decision by three-quarters of a length in that March 7 Grade 3 stakes race at Oaklawn.
Cox allowed Shedaresthedevil to gradually rebound from the Fantasy disappointment. She received an important confidence-builder when she partnered with Geroux for the first time and was a geared-down six-length winner in a June 5 start at Churchill Downs. She returned to stakes competition and dominated the Grade 3 1 1/16-mile Indiana Oaks by five lengths on July 8 at Indiana Grand with a tracking trip that Geroux seemingly used as a test run for the biggest of stages.
“I really didn’t expect her to be that close,” Cox said, “but then I saw the half-mile (47.92) and I was really comfortable with that.”