Racing spotlight: Shedaresthedevil, Manny Franco, Saffie Joseph Jr.

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March 5th, 2021

Racing Spotlight is a new weekly series that will highlight a horse, jockey, and trainer with insightful information to help our players always be informed.

Horse spotlight: Shedaresthedevil

Shedaresthedevil, the 15-1 longshot winner of the 2020 Kentucky Oaks (G1), is tentatively scheduled to make her 2021 debut in the Azeri (G2) at Oaklawn Park on March 13.

After she won Churchill Downs’ signature race for fillies, which was postponed to Sept. 4 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she closed out the year with a third-place finish in the Spinster (G1) at Keeneland, her first start against older horses.

Her four wins in 2020 earned her an Eclipse Award nomination for the country's champion three-year-old filly, but the honor ultimately went to Swiss Skydiver. Shedaresthedevil's trainer, Brad Cox, won an Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding trainer.

“She’s doing phenomenal," said Staton Flurry, who co-owns the four-year-old daughter of Daredevil with Qatar Racing and Big Aut Farms. "She got a little vacation after the Spinster, and it really did her well. She matured even more.”

She has been stabled in Hot Springs, but when record snows hit Arkansas toward the end of February, her connections decided to send her to Fair Grounds, where she could continue training without major weather-related interruptions.

“The weather screwed everything up, so our plans could all change tomorrow,” Flurry said. “We are just taking it race by race. With nice horses like her, you just roll with the flow, and they’ll tell you when they are ready to run. Hopefully we’ll wind up at the Breeder’s Cup with her.”

Shedaresthedevil was stabled at Oaklawn last year, where she won the Honeybee (G3) and finished third in the Fantasy (G3). After the Fantasy, she won an optional-claiming allowance at Churchill Downs and the Indiana Oaks (G3) before the Kentucky Oaks. Under the Twin Spires, she beat multiple Grade 1 winner Gamine and Swiss Skydiver, who became the sixth filly to win the Preakness (G1).

From 11 starts, Shedaresthedevil has a 5-2-3 record and earnings of $1,285,768.

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Manny Franco after his 1,000th win in 2018. (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

Jockey spotlight: Manny Franco

Franco had a banner 2020, and he come out of the gate in 2021 with similar momentum.

Last year marked the fifth consecutive season the 26-year-old finished in the top 10 in earnings among North American jockeys, a position he has maintained in the new year.

His 2020 purses were bolstered by multiple Grade 1 winner Tiz the Law, who won the first leg of the rearranged Triple Crown — the Belmont Stakes (G1). The pair went on to win the Travers (G1) at Saratoga and take second in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Franco also won two Grade 1s with Channel Maker, who won the Eclipse Award for outstanding male turf horse.

On Saturday, Franco will pilot another Derby hopeful. He will ride the Bob Baffert-trained Freedom Fighter in the Gotham (G3). Freedom Fighter won his debut and finished second to stablemate Concert Tour in the San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita on Feb. 2. On the undercard, Franco will vie for Kentucky Oaks points with recent black-type stakes winner The Grass is Blue, trained by Chad Brown.

Franco, who has won multiple New York Racing Association riding titles, is currently third in the Aqueduct standings, behind Kendrick Carmouche and Eric Cancel. He has won at a 18% rate and has finished in the trifecta at a 55% rate. According to Brisnet trainer/jockey reports, he and Brown have been winning at a 47% rate when they team up.

Franco is from Puerto Rico and has been riding professionally since 2013. His agent is Angel Cordero, the first Puerto Rican to be inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame, who won 13 riding titles at Saratoga.

Trainer spotlight: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Joseph, who scored his first Grade 1 win in the 2019 Pennsylvania Derby with longshot Math Wizard, could return to elite company this year. 

The 34-year-old is currently second to Todd Pletcher in the Gulfstream Park trainer standings. He is winning at a 21% rate and has finished in the trifecta in 53% of his starts.

The Barbados native is the son of a trainer and started his career in his home country. In 2009, at the age of 22, he became the youngest trainer of a Barbados Triple Crown winner, with Areutalkintome. He switched to training year-round in Florida in 2011.

“It was my dream as a young kid — 16, 17, 18 — coming to Gulfstream from Barbados on holiday,” Joseph said. “I'd see Todd Pletcher win all the titles and win all the races. Just to compete against him, I feel in awe.”

Last year, he saddled his first Kentucky Derby starter — Ny Traffic. This year, he has several 3-year-olds who are testing the trail to the Triple Crown. Collaborate, who won a maiden special weight by 12 1/2 lengths Feb. 27, may get a shot at the Florida Derby (G1). Irish Honor or stakes-placed Awesome Gerry are possible for Saturday’s Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct.

Drain the Clock, with four winsm including the Swale Stakes (G3), recently finished second in the Fountain of Youth (G2). Joseph said he believes the horse has Grade 1 potential at shorter distances. Ny Traffic and Math Wizard are both still in training.

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