In her eight years as a senior assistant to multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, Cherie DeVaux walked into the winners' circle with such standouts as Lady Eli, Dacita, Wake Forest, Flintshire, Zagora and too many others to name.
On March 29, she walked into the winner's circle at Gulfstream Park with Traveling, who took a $39,000 maiden claiming race to give DeVaux her first win since going out on her own last spring.
At Pimlico on Friday, Black-Eyed Susan Day, the 37-year-old DeVaux is hopeful that Dixiana Farms' Primela will give her her first stakes win as a trainer in the 47th running of the $100,000 Maker's Mark Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies. The one-mile turf race will mark the third North American start for the French-bred daughter of Orpen, who finished a closing fourth in the Herecomesthebride (G3) in Florida and sixth in the Appalachian (G2) in April in Keeneland.
“She had a rough trip in the Appalachian over soft ground, and flattened out the last sixteenth,” said DeVaux, who on Preakness Day will celebrate the first anniversary of saddling her first horse, Take Charge Tina (fifth at Belmont Park). “She is progressing nicely.”
The same might be said of DeVaux, who grew up in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. the daughter of a standardbred trainer. While in college, she began galloping horses and soon found her calling as an assistant trainer, first for Chuck Simon, for whom she worked for six years, and then for Brown. Following champion Lady Eli's retirement, DeVaux decided it was time to “write the next chapter” in her life and struck out on her own.
“I started with zero horses,” she recalls. “I wanted to fulfill my duties [with Brown], then go out on my own instead of doing both at the same time. It kind of put me behind the eight ball to step back from a big operation.
“I needed to learn patience, along with working in a different capacity as far as business duties, client relations, networking and sales, but the biggest takeaway from Chad was to always put the horse first,” she added.
An example of that was with a Union Rags colt named Dinar, purchased as a 2-year-old for $90,000 by Al Rashid Stables. After a few workouts in New York last summer, DeVaux decided to give him some time and brought him back this year to finish a solid third in his debut, beaten less than three lengths at 24-1 in a maiden special at Keeneland.
“I kept that in mind and didn't push him,” she said. “This whole first year as getting the ground work and planning ahead. We spent the winter [training] at Payson Park and focused on the Keeneland meet, and it paid off.”
In five starts there, DeVaux's horses finished with two seconds and a third, and already this year her stable of 30 have earned more than $100,000 with a 1-3-5 mark in 18 starts.
“We have an exciting group of 2-year-olds,” she said. “Looking back, it's been a year of growth and change, both personally and professionally. And looking ahead, well, we're all here for the horses. Winning races is the goal, of course, but the horse has to come first.”
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