Shedaresthedevil ran like the devil to pull a startling 1 ½-length upset over Swiss Skydiver in the 146thLongines Kentucky Oaks in a stakes-record time of 1:48.28 on Friday at Churchill Downs.
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.
Cox teamed with Geroux to win their second Oaks in three years. They proved to be an unbeatable combination with Monomoy Girl in 2018.
“This is why you wake up every morning, to get to win races like this,” Cox said. “This filly has been really impressive coming into this race, and when she breezed with Monomoy Girl a couple of weeks ago, we knew how well she was training.”
Monomoy Girl set the stage for the drama to come by capturing the La Troienne Stakes Presented by Oak Grove Racing and Gaming as part of the Oaks undercard.
“These are the days you dream of,” Cox said.
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."
Alabama Stakes winner Swiss Skydiver, kept patiently in third by Tyler Gaffalione, got up to be a non-threatening second as the 5-2 second choice in the wagering. Trainer Ken McPeek was not all that surprised by the upset.
“That’s horse racing. There are no guarantees,” he said. “She’s been training super. I actually wasn’t as worried about Gamine as I was another filly running a bang-up race. That’s what happened.”
Gaffalione also credited the upstart winner. “My filly was tracking in a nice position. She was comfortable where she was,” he said. “We had every shot turning for home. We had a quarter of a mile to get there. Just second best."
Dual Grade 1 winner Gamine, bidding to give Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his fourth Oaks win and jockey John Velazquez his 200th Grade 1 score, weakened to be third.
“Turning for home, she was in a good spot and she was late switching leads and she never does that,” Baffert said. “I don’t know if she got tired or whatever.”
Shedaresthedevil, owned by Flurry Racing Stables, Qatar Racing Limited and Big Aut Farms, improved her career record to five wins from 10 starts and $1,245,768 in earnings.
"She had a great trip. She broke very sharp and I was able to stalk Gamine the whole way,” Geroux said. “That was the plan, but sometimes plans don’t always work out. Perfect plan today.
“The only question was whether or not I was going to be able to run her down. My filly ran an amazing race.”
Well-regarded Speech took fourth followed by Tempers Rising, Hopeful Growth, Bayerness, Donna Veloce and Dream Marie.