Contender or Pretender: Is Mr. Monomoy a Top Kentucky Derby Candidate?

Mr. Monomoy, with Florent Geroux aboard, set the early pace and drew away impressively to win the first division of the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 15 at Fair Grounds. (Lou Hodges, Jr. /Hodges Photography)

Making the Grade, which will run through the 2020 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could make an impact on the Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey), and pedigree.

This week we take a closer look at Mr. Monomoy, winner of the first division of the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford Feb. 15 at Fair Grounds.

mr. monomoy

Bay Colt

Sire (Father): Palace Malice

Dam (Mother): Drumette, by Henny Hughes

Owners: Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb and Doheny Racing Stable

Breeders: FPF and Highfield Ranch (Ky.)

Trainer: Brad Cox

Mr. Monomoy is an interesting case study for a 3-year-old on the Triple Crown trail and a reminder that racehorses progress at different paces. Sometimes when the light bulb goes on for a young racehorse, it can lead to a breakout performance and a promising new player for the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.

Ability: Through his first four races, Mr. Monomoy had encountered several different types of adversity, used several different running styles, and achieved largely positive results. But Feb. 15 at Fair Grounds, the bay colt by 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice delivered by far the best race of his career in a front-running, 2 ½-length win in the first division of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford.

The 50 points for winning the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying race virtually guarantee Mr. Monomoy’s place in the starting gate for the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.

Mr. Monomoy’s Risen Star speed figures were promising as he earned a new career-best 97 Equibase Speed Figure – a three-point jump – and improved his BrisNet speed rating four points to a 96. The 92 Beyer Speed Figure was four to eight points behind the elite 3-year-olds so far on the Derby trail, but with continued improvement and maturation Mr. Monomoy is within striking range.

From a speed figure perspective, I would not call this a true breakout race, but from a development view he had his best race to date at 1 1/8 miles, relaxed nicely on the lead, and clocked a final furlong in 12.78 seconds to post a winning time of 1:50.43, which was more than four-fifths of a second faster than the second division of this race. The final three-eighths of a mile for the first division was 37.58 seconds, compared with 38.66 seconds for the second division despite identical opening half-mile clockings of :48.57.

A $202,230 purchase as a 2-year-old in France at the 2019 Arqana May Breeze-Up sale, Mr. Monomoy is a half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Monomoy Girl, the 2018 champion 3-year-old filly who won both the Longines Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff that season.

Mr. Monomoy trailed early in his career debut in October 2019 at Keeneland when the 2-year-olds on either side of him pinched him back right after the start. He did not quit, however, and rallied past eight horses to finish fourth.

Mr. Monomoy was bumped again at the start of his second race but recovered to set the pace and won by 5 ½ lengths Nov. 16 at Churchill Downs.

Stretching out from sprints to a one-mile and 70-yard race in his final start at 2 on Dec. 21 at Fair Grounds, Mr. Monomoy raced for the first time on an off (wet) track and ducked out at the start on the sloppy surface. Mr. Monomoy recovered well from his outside post position in the field of seven and prompted the pace. He opened a one-length lead in early stretch but faded late and finished second by a head to Lynn’s Map.

Mr. Monomoy’s Equibase Speed Figures (77-90-87) for his first three starts and his BrisNet speed ratings (78-87-88) were solid if unspectacular heading into his stakes debut in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes Jan. 18 at Fair Grounds.

He stalked a solid pace (more than a second faster than the Risen Star) in the Lecomte but was trapped in traffic in early stretch and did not have the same late punch as closers Enforceable and Silver State.

Mr. Monomoy finished third, 1 ¾ lengths behind Enforceable and 5 ¼ lengths in front of the fourth-place finisher. The 94 Equibase Speed Figure and 92 BrisNet speed rating indicated it was a small, but significant step forward and that progress continued impressively in the Risen Star.

Running style: In his two wins, Mr. Monomoy has led from start to finish. He also has demonstrated the ability to rate early in his races, but it would be a nice boost to his credentials to see him employ those tactics and win. Half-sister Monomoy Girl was similar in that she had enough early speed to set the pace, press, or stalk, and I think with continued mental growth we could see a similar finished product from a running-style perspective in Mr. Monomoy.

Michael Dubb (center) and Sol Kumin (right). (Eclipse Sportswire)

Connections: Sol Kumin and Michael Dubb were partners in the aforementioned champion Monomoy Girl, and Kumin’s Madaket Stables, Dubb, and Michael Doheny’s Doheny Racing Stable own Mr. Monomoy in partnership.

Kumin was part of the ownership group for 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify and 2019 champion older dirt female Midnight Bisou. He has operated four main racing operations since his start in racing in 2014: Head of Plains Partners, Monomoy Stables, Madaket Stables, and Sheep Pond Partners.

Sheep Pond Partners enjoyed success in Kumin’s first year as an owner when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with Lady Eli. Kumin enjoyed his first taste of Triple Crown success in 2016 when Exaggerator ran second in the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness Stakes for a partnership that included Head of Plains Partners. Kumin is co-founder and CEO of Folger Hill Asset Management.

Kumin and Dubb partnered with two other ownership entities in 2019 to race both champion turf female winner Uni, the 2019 TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile victress; and and champion 2-year-old filly British Idiom, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Michael Dubb is the founder and chief executive officer of the Beechwood Organization, the largest developer of residential housing in Long Island, N.Y. He has been involved in 299 different racing partnerships since 2002, according to Equibase stats.

In addition to the standouts mentioned above, Dubb has also partnered with Kumin to race TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Wavell Avenue and has assembled a deep cast of Grade 1 winners through the years.

Michael Doheny has been involved in various partnerships since 2014, campaigning graded stakes winners such as Lady Paname and Testa Rossi in addition to Mr. Monomoy.

Since taking out his trainer’s license in 2004, Brad Cox has won 1,286 races, including 165 stakes, through Feb. 17, 2020. Cox has won three Breeders’ Cup races –  the 2018 Longines Distaff with Monomoy Girl, 2019 Juvenile Fillies with British Idiom, and 2019 Filly and Mare Sprint with Covfefe – from 60 graded stakes victories. His best finish in a Triple Crown race came with Owendale, who finished third in the 2019 Preakness Stakes.

A Louisville, Ky., native, Cox previously served as an assistant to Dallas Stewart.

Regular rider Florent Geroux is best known as the jockey for 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner. The Normandy, France native has won five Breeders’ Cup races, including the Classic in 2017 on Gun Runner and the Longines Distaff in 2018 with Monomoy Girl.

Geroux has amassed 1,547 wins, 210 stakes wins, and 107 graded stakes wins in North America through Feb. 17. He finished third in the 2016 Kentucky Derby on Gun Runner and ran third with Owendale in the 2019 Preakness.

Pedigree: Mr. Monomoy is from the first crop of 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, by Curlin. Palace Malice also won the Met Mile in 2014 among six graded stakes wins and is off to a nice start as a sire with 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Presented by Coolmore America winner Structor and Mr. Monomoy among his four stakes winners through Feb. 17.

As a Belmont Stakes winner by a two-time Horse of the Year, Palace Malice should pass along a healthy dose of stamina to his progeny, but he also had the speed to win an important Grade 1 race at a mile.

Mr. Monomoy is out of the Henny Hughes mare Drumette, whose lone win in four starts came at 5 ½ furlongs. However, as a broodmare she already has produced Monomoy Girl, a three-time Grade 1 winner at 1 1/8 miles and a champion.

Mr. Monomoy’s second dam, Endless Parade, by Williamstown, was a multiple stakes winner at one mile. In addition to Drumette, Endless Parade produced Drum Major, a graded stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles on the grass. This family also is responsible for 1980 champion 2-year-old filly Heavenly Cause.

I’d be a lot more concerned about classic-distance stamina in this pedigree if we hadn’t just watched Mr. Monomoy dominate at 1 1/8 miles and witnessed his half-sister Monomoy Girl absolutely dazzle in two-turn races.

I like the steady growth he’s shown to date, although I do think he needs to take another step forward to compete with the elite 3-year-olds in the 2020 Kentucky Derby. I’d also like to see him win from off the pace, because I don’t think he has enough natural speed to control the pace in a 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby.

Over the past few weeks, several talented, well-bred horses from top-notch connections have emerged as key players on the Kentucky Derby trail and Mr. Monomoy deserves to be mentioned at the bottom of the top tier of Derby hopefuls. I view him as a serious Kentucky Derby threat if he can continue to improve, and I expect he will.

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