You can reach the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar from the parking lots of Oaklawn Park. Staton Flurry, a major part of the group that owns Longines Distaff contender Shedaresthedevil, is breathing proof of that.
Flurry developed a passion for racing while he grew up less than a mile from the popular Hot Springs, Ark., track and tended to the parking lots surrounding that venue that his family owns in addition to real estate holdings. “I’d always joke that when I jumped on the trampoline as a kid, if I timed it right, I could see the horses going around the turn,” he said.
That sight never failed to thrill him, leading him to yearn to own a Thoroughbred one day. After graduating from Henderson State University in Arkansas, he wasted no time keeping that promise to himself. In a game that typically presents a long and steep uphill climb, Flurry has produced tremendous early results. Those are highlighted by Shedaresthedevil, who has built on last year’s upset victory in the Longines Kentucky Oaks to earn almost $2.3 million lifetime. “We’ve had a lot of success and I’ve been very fortunate to be with some good people,” he said. “Our highs have been higher than our lows have been low.”
Flurry, 31, and trainer Brad Cox, 41, represent a formidable team. Their highest high together before multiple Grade 1 winner Shedaresthedevil involved the purchase of Mr. Misunderstood for $130,000 as a 2-year-old in 2016. He blossomed and ended his career last December with $967,926 in earnings.
“We’ve kind of worked our way up the ladder together. I didn’t have the stock that I have now and he didn’t have the stock he has. We’ve both come a long way, I feel like in somewhat of a short period of time,” said Cox. He earned his first Eclipse Award as the leading trainer in North America last season.
In a sense, Mr. Misunderstood’s success paved the way for Shedaresthedevil. It made it much easier for Flurry to be receptive when Clay Scherer, his bloodstock adviser, was drawn to Shedaresthedevil at the 2019 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. Although she was by unproven sire Daredevil, Scherer liked everything else about her.
“This is a horse we need to go after,” Scherer told Flurry.
One problem: Qatar Racing Limited had reached the same conclusion.
The answer? They joined forces with Qatar to purchase the prospect, bred by WinStar Farm, for $280,000. Big Aut Farms was added as a minority partner.
Shedaresthedevil proved her worth soon after she arrived at Cox’s barn. “We knew how she was training right after we got her. We knew she would be special,” Flurry said. “We didn’t know how special she would be.”
She debuted with a victory at Churchill Downs the following June and immediately tacked on a third-place effort in the Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar. After she concluded her 2-year-old campaign by running fourth in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf and second in the Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita Park, Cox began plotting an uncommon path to the Kentucky Oaks.
“We took the easy route, we took the conservative route to the Oaks,” Flurry said. “Everybody else was flying around the country for Grade 1s.”
While more prominent 3-year-olds were butting heads and absorbing wear and tear, Shedaresthedevil was quietly building a strong foundation for a breakthrough that few saw coming. She won three of five starts ahead of the Oaks, taking the Honeybee Stakes at Flurry’s beloved Oaklawn, an allowance optional claimer at Churchill and the Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand in her final Oaks prep.
Flurry told friends he would be thrilled to finish fourth or higher in the Oaks, and she went off at 15.10-1. He was as surprised as anyone else when she dispatched eventual Preakness Stakes winner Swiss Skydiver by 1 ½ lengths.
“We knew she was going to run good,” Flurry said of his first Grade 1 triumph. “We didn’t know she was going to run that good.”
While heavily-raced Swiss Skydiver flamed out this season as a 4-year-old, Shedaresthedevil swept four of five starts. She suffered her lone defeat when she came in third behind division leader Letruska and talented stablemate Bonny South in the June 5 Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park.
In assessing her chances in the $2 million Distaff, it is worth noting that Shedaresthedevil bested Letruska by a head in the March 13 Azeri Stakes and stands to benefit from a spin over the track at Del Mar since she coasted by 3 ¼ lengths against Venetian Harbor in the Aug. 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes. After that, she prepped for the Distaff with a neck decision against Crystal Ball in the Sept. 18 Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs, her ninth win in 16 starts.
Flurry appreciates how far Shedaresthedevil has taken him. “Especially at the small scale I play on, whether it’s just buying a few mid-level horses at sales or claiming cheaper or mid-level horses, you don’t plan on hitting a home run like this,” he said. “You hope you do, but it’s not anything you could dream about this early. It’s a testament to the group I aligned myself with.”
Shedaresthedevil will be making her final start for her current owners at the Breeders’ Cup. She will then be offered at Fasig-Tipton’s November Sale three days after the Distaff, where she is sure to be in great demand.