LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Merely contending on the big stage wasn't good enough for Shedaresthedevil, who went on to hammer her name into racing history.
The 15-1 long shot won the Kentucky Oaks in record time, overtaking favorite Gamine at the top of the stretch and holding off Swiss Skydiver for a 1 1/2-length victory Friday in the 146th Kentucky Oaks for fillies at Churchill Downs.
“She broke very sharp and I was able to stalk Gamine all the way,” said jockey Florent Geroux, who also won the Oaks two years ago aboard Monomoy Girl. “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.”
Shedaresthedevil was fresh off a Grade 3 stakes win in the Indiana Oaks among consecutive victories but covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.28 to break Bird Town's record of 1:48.64 set in 2003. Her time was a second off Victory Gallop's 1999 track record of 1:47.28. The bay filly contended from the start from the No. 7 post, staying within reach of the even-money favorite Gamine before coming on near the final turn and gaining the lead entering the stretch.
Once ahead, she pulled away from Swiss Skydiver and rolled to victory in the $1.25 million marquee event.
“We are so thrilled to win a race like this, again, in our backyard," said trainer and Louisville native Brad Cox. "This has been a phenomenal day with Monomoy Girl winning the La Troienne, then winning the Oaks with Shedaresthedevil. These are the days you dream of.”
Shedaresthedevil paid $32.20, $8.40 and $3.80.
The Oaks victory also provided a emotional lift for Geroux, who tested positive for COVID-19 in July. He was asymptomatic but couldn’t ride elsewhere and spent parts of the summer at Ellis Park and Churchill Downs.
“Just being here to have the Derby, even if it’s September with no spectators, it’s amazing,” added Geroux, who will ride Thousand Words in Saturday's 146th Kentucky Derby at 15-1 odds.
Swiss Skydiver, who started along the rail as the 5/2 second choice, returned $3.80 and $2.60. Gamine, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, paid $2.40.
Speech, the 5-1 third choice, was fourth.
Postponed from May along with the Kentucky Derby because of coronavirus concerns, the Oaks went off on a hot, sunny day without spectators.
No problem. Shedaresthedevil provided a performance worth watching on replays.
Especially the way the filly battled Gamine, who entered the Oaks having won all four career starts this year and the past two by 25 combined lengths. Her most dominant performance was a wire-to-wire, 18-length victory in the Acorn at Belmont on June 20, before following with a seven-length win in the Grade 1 Longines Test at Saratoga on Aug. 8.
This time, Gamine watched another horse take control.
“She just didn’t have it," Baffert said. “Turning for home, she was in a good spot and she was late switching leads and she never does that. I don’t know if she just got tired or whatever.”
Meanwhile, Swiss Skydiver came in as the runaway Oaks points leader and wins in four of her past five starts. The horse also showed she could hung against colts, starting strong before finishing 3 1/2 lengths behind winner Art Collector in the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland in July.
In the end, Shedaresthedevil was the one who made it look easy.