Not many fillies will fight back after being headed but Monomoy Girl, the 13/5 second favorite, showed talent and tenacity to win the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 4.
She was challenged and briefly headed in the stretch by Wonder Gadot (17/1) but responded to the requests of her jockey Florent Geroux to win by half a length.
The victory provided her trainer Brad Cox with a well-deserved first classic win and a double on Oaks day. Owners Michael Dubb, Sol Kumin’s Monomoy Stables, Bethlehem Stables and The Elkstone Group were full of praise for the way Cox had handled this daughter of Tapizar.
The Oaks had been her target since November and Cox believes that most horses are at their best on their third run after break. Monomoy Girl won both her prep races with ease even though she was slow out of the gates and found herself at the rear of the pack in the Rachel Alexandra in February. In April she took the Ashland Stakes with ease from the front in her usual style, building her confidence with a five and a half length winning margin.
This Oaks win was particularly sweet for connections as Monomoy Girl had to overcome being drawn wide of the field of 14. She had to give away ground on the outside of the pacesetter and fight off a robust late challenge from Mark Caisse’s Wonder Gadot. If that was not enough to test the nerve of her followers she then had to survive an objection before being confirmed as the winner. Monomoy Girl had rubbed against Wonder Gadot in their stretch duel.
Dubb had previously owned two fillies that were strongly fancied to win the Kentucky Oaks but both got beat including the favorite Grace Hall in 2012 who finished third. He claimed he had more confidence in Monomoy Girl because she had the right team that were also track specialists behind her.
Midnight Bisou, the 23/10 Kentucky Oaks favorite, was third beaten four lengths under Mike Smith for Bill Spawr. Eskimo Kisses (15/1) finished four lengths further back for Kenny McPeek ahead of Chocolate Martini (16/1). Monomoy Girl’s barnmate Sassy Sienna (37/1) was sixth, beaten 12 lengths.
Monomoy Girl gave the French-born Geroux his first Kentucky Oaks win. He had recently enjoyed stellar success on Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He said he guessed that he was ok riding on dirt now having initially been viewed as a turf specialist.
Geroux was especially happy to win for connections that he considered to be friends, friends he could trust to approve a last-minute sponsorship deal that resulted in his strange choice of head gear in the press conference. His commitment to Monomoy Girl was highlighted when he was booked to breeze her but flights to the track were canceled following freaky weather conditions. Undeterred Geroux drove with Cox and a friend for seven hours to make his slot.
Monomoy Girl had only been beaten once and is a typical filly with her own opinions on how she should be ridden. Geroux knew that she did not appreciate him using his whip and he used it sparingly, giving her two strikes when she was headed. He was impressed with her stamina and that she managed to win even though she was busy looking at everything around the track as usual.
Geroux had to hustle her up as soon as the gates opened from his wide berth and managed to get a prominent position, three wide going into the first turn. He subsequently stalked the pacesetter and admitted that he did not decide to hit the front. Monomoy Girl likes to lead and pulled him into that position approaching the final turn.
Geroux noticed the filly’s ears flapping, indicating that she was busy looking around as she gets distracted very easily. He admitted that he touched the other filly but did not make significant contact. He was confident that the stewards would not alter the result, so was Cox after he had seen the head-on footage.
A local trainer fulfils his potential for well-established connections
Brad Cox grew up two blocks from Churchill Downs and was taken to the track as a five-year-old boy by his father. At thirteen years of age he decided that he wanted to train horses. Now in his thirties, it was entirely appropriate that his biggest win came at his local track.
The day had started well for him, he saddled the four-year-old Will Call, a 7/1 shot, who won the grade three Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes for Klein Racing. It was the colt’s third run after a break of 399 days.
It was Sol Kumin’s decision to send Monomoy Girl to Brad, he recognized him as an up and coming talent. Kumin likes to support capable individuals who are not on everyone’s radar. Monomoy Girl was bought for just $100,000 as a yearling at Keeneland by Liz Crow for him. It was one of the first tickets she signed herself after being part of a larger operation.
What next for Monomoy Girl?
Cox is keen to target the Acorn next for Monomoy Girl and hopes to be back at Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup. If his plans work as well as this one Monomoy Girl could put Brad Cox on a lot of owners’ lists as a young trainer worth supporting.