By Ben Gowans, Courtesy of The Saratoga Special
The commotion of a bustling crowd at Saratoga Race Course didn’t faze Monomoy Girl. She strolled down the horsepath to the paddock late Saturday morning as if she knew everyone was looking at her.
Coolers rolling on the pavement, alcohol already flowing, music playing, and of course people yelling out, “Is that Monomoy Girl?”
“A 10-year-old kid could have led her over there and schooled her,” said trainer Brad Cox after the Longines Kentucky Oaks winner returned to the barn. “That’s just her. We’re just going through the routine of schooling because we have before she runs every time, but she doesn’t even really need it. It’s weird, there’s time when she looks at things. If she doesn’t like something, she definitely lets you know about it.”
For starters, she doesn’t like to lose.
The 4-5 morning line favorite for the July 22 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks has won seven of her eight starts and earned $1,495,750. A neck loss is the only blemish on her résumé and the 3-year-old is 4-for-4 this year.
“She’s really laid back. She’s pretty easy to deal with. She’s definitely a very classy filly,” Cox’s 17-year-old son Blake said early Saturday morning just before leading Monomoy Girl off the main track, across Union Avenue, and through the rows of barns back to her stall next to the office in the Cox barn on the Oklahoma Training Track side.
The chestnut filly started her career in early September at Indiana Grand, where she won a 1-mile turf maiden and then won a turf allowance at Churchill Downs later in the month.
Then came the headlines.
“She had always breezed good on the dirt, but she was 2-for-2 on the turf,” Blake Cox said. “Two weeks before the Rags To Riches (Stakes) she breezed phenomenal on the dirt, she kicked this filly’s butt who we thought was a good horse.”
She won the Rags To Riches at a-mile on Churchill’s dirt by 6 ½ lengths in late October. A month later, she finished second in Churchill’s Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes by a neck to Road To Victory.
And then she was on the road to even bigger.
Monomoy Girl started her 3-year-old campaign at Fair Grounds in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes in mid February. After making a blunder at the start, she found herself far off the pace in the Grade 2 race, an early step toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. She came from last to win by 2 ½ lengths that day. Six weeks later, she won Brad Cox’s first Grade 1 when she grabbed command early and took the Central Bank Ashland Stakes field on a merry chase to win by 5 ½ lengths at Keeneland.
Twenty-seven days later, Monomoy Girl gave Louisville native Cox a second Grade 1 win – on the first Friday in May. In a crowded field of 14, she fought off Wonder Gadot to win the $1 million Kentucky Oaks by a half-length. She backed up that performance with another win, this time in a 2-length score in Belmont Park’s Grade 1 Acorn Stakes June 9.
Draped in a personalized Kentucky Oaks winner’s flysheet, the 3-year-old was accompanied by Brad, Blake and Bryson Cox and assistant Dustin Dugas as she made her way to school in the paddock.
“I rode her when she shipped up to Belmont for the Acorn, I got on her three or four days there,” said Cox’s New York assistant Dugas, who has ridden the filly every day in Saratoga. “Yesterday, she was bucking from the time we left the pony, but she was just being playful. This morning, she did it as soon as the pony turned her loose. She went to buck and had her head between her knees and then she did it for five or six jumps and then after that she was fine.”
Monomoy Girl handled her time in the paddock with ease, but did stop for a few moments when asked to turn at the end of the canopy over the saddling stalls. The filly looked up as the breeze intensified and the canopy flapped.
“She’s a huge fan of mints. She likes to stop,” Brad Cox said. “People think she likes to stop and look, I think she likes to stop and wait for someone to give her a mint. She knows she doesn’t get them when she’s walking, so she’ll stop.”
Luckily for her, she lives right next to the office in Cox’s Saratoga barn.
“She’ll stop at the office door for a minute at Churchill every time,” 20-year-old Bryson Cox said. “Every turn she takes, she’s looking for a candy. She’s spoiled for sure.”
The eldest Cox son has taken on an increased role in the barn recently.
“He’s been our traveling man for the last few months,” Cox said. “We won three stakes at Prairie Meadows, went up to Woodbine and won a Grade 1. We’ve given him a lot of responsibility and he’s stepped up to the plate.”
Sunday’s forecast calls for rain through the early morning hours and then possibly more in the afternoon.
“I check it in the evenings,” said Cox, who will give a leg up to Florent Geroux. “It’s all good, I don’t really worry about it too much. She has speed and lots of time speed plays well on a wet track. She’s doing well and I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t like it.”
Monomoy Girl is owned by four entities: Michael Dubb, Sol Kumin’s Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stables. Rain wouldn’t diminish their celebration if Monomoy Girl – a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapizar and the Henny Hughes mare Drumette – were to win.
The same could be said for Cox and his team, who wouldn’t mind celebrating their first Saratoga graded success.
“It’s awesome. Saratoga, it’s an unbelievable season. There’s summer and then there’s Saratoga. For them to be up here, nearly the whole meet, it means a whole lot,” Cox said about his sons. “They enjoy doing this as well, we’re making memories that will last a lifetime.”
A Grade 1 win at Saratoga would fit that category.
Midnight Bisou was favored over Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks and takes another swing as the 7-5 second choice for trainer Steve Asmussen and the ownership group of Bloom Racing Stable, Kumin’s Madaket Stables and Allen Racing. She finished third in the Oaks after a wide move from far off the pace. Since Kentucky, the daughter of Midnight Lute won the Grade 2 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont June 30. Mike Smith, who won his third Santa Anita Oaks on the Kentucky-bred, comes in for the ride.
Chocolate Martini (12-1 for Tom Amoss and Irad Ortiz Jr.) bested fellow Coaching Club entrant Eskimo Kisses by a head in the Fair Grounds Oaks in March. Since then, Chocolate Martini was fifth by 10 ¼ lengths in the Kentucky Oaks and then third in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita. Eskimo Kisses (6-1 for Ken McPeek and Javier Castellano) was second to Monomoy Girl in the Ashland and after that ran well to finish fourth beaten 4 ¾ lengths in the Kentucky Oaks.
Gio Game (10-1 for Mark Casse and Julien Leparoux) won an allowance at Churchill in the race right after the Kentucky Oaks and then was third behind Monomoy Girl in the Acorn last month.
Read this and other great features in The Saratoga Special through the conclusion of the Saratoga race meet