Saratoga trainer watch: DeVaux wins three straight; Handal, Sharp attract notice

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 14th, 2021

Cherie DeVaux played an instrumental role in getting 2017 champion turf mare Lady Eli back to top form from laminitis when working as an assistant to Chad Brown. Since going out on her own in 2018, DeVaux has won 42-of-312 starts, nearly half coming in 2021.

After a winless campaign at Saratoga in 2020, DeVaux recently won three consecutive races over a six-day period at the upstate New York track.

Raymond Handal and Joe Sharp are more experienced conditioners, but neither is known for stringing together winners at Saratoga. Both recorded hat tricks during a short window this meet.


Her first career stakes victory came in late May via Gam’s Mission, who won the Regret (G3) at Churchill Downs, and DeVaux has captured 20-of-111 starts (18%) over the first 7 1/2 months this year.

After dropping her first two attempts at Saratoga this summer, DeVaux sent out debuter Blissful, who overcame a slow start to defeat maiden special weight rivals at 1 1/16 miles on Aug. 1. Bettors overlooked the two-year-old Empire Maker filly at 6-1.

DeVaux came back three days later to notch her second stakes tally, and first at Saratoga, with Bayerness in the Shine Again. The four-year-old filly may target the Ballerina S. (G1) on Aug. 28.

On Aug. 6, Coastana made it three straight for the DeVaux stable when taking an entry-level allowance on turf. Bet down to 2-1, the four-year-old filly is the only favorite DeVaux has had from seven starters this meet.


A familiar presence on the Midwestern circuits, Sharp is perhaps best known for training millionaire Girvin, winner of the Haskell (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) in 2017. Sharp saddled his first runner in 2014 and has shared a trainer title at Kentucky Downs, but he won only 5-of-50 (10%) starts over the last two seasons at Saratoga.

His barn has turned things around in 2021. From a relatively low number of starters, Sharp ranks 10th in the trainer standings with five wins, connecting at a 27% clip (5-for-18).

He reeled off three victories over a recent eight-day period, July 30-Aug. 6. Runnin ‘ Ray (July 30) and Lookin To Fly (Aug. 5) proved best at 7-2 odds, and Fast Boat produced a 10-1 upset in the Aug. 6 Troy S. (G3).

Sharp logged his fifth win of the meet on Aug. 13 with Lady Danae, a two-year-old filly by Klimt who upset a 5 1/2-furlong turf maiden special weight at 11-1.


Since starting his own stable in 2014, Handal has achieved the reputation as an up-and-coming trainer in New York and East Coast tracks. He won 7-of-43 (16%) starts at Saratoga last year, tying for 17th in the standings.

Earlier in the 2021 meet, Handal hit a 50% clip (3-for-6) over a nine-day stretch beginning on July 29.

Foolish Ghost, who earned his first stakes triumph when taking the John Morrissey H. at 4-1 on July 29, and 6-1 maiden claiming scorer Airborne Gal (Aug. 6) both returned double-digit mutuels to backers. Exotic West drew off to an easy win as the favorite over claiming rivals on Aug. 1.