The horse of a lifetime gave her many connections a sweet parting gift Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
For the fans, it was the chance to follow champion Monomoy Girl through what may have been her final start, a showdown with the best of her division at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Good racehorses don’t often run on into their older years, but in her 5-year-old season, the daughter of Tapizar delivered.
For her jockey, it was one last fleet-footed spin around the track — their 14th together — and Florent Geroux went powering home to victory in the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff with a grateful heart.
For Liz Crow, it was resounding affirmation of the eye that spotted brilliance hidden in a $100,000 yearling who grew up to greatness — the one who took the bloodstock agent from fledgling to proven.
For her owners, it was a swan song that rewarded patience, a love of the game, and their trust in a trainer whose instincts were rewarded with the accomplishment of his career.
In the aftermath of her 1 3/4-length score over Valiance in the 1 1/8-mile Distaff — her second Breeders’ Cup score after a win in the 2018 edition — the Brad Cox trainee will ship Sunday to Fasig-Tipton in Lexington, where she will be offered by ELiTE as the headliner of the sales company’s November breeding stock auction, appropriately billed as “Night of the Stars.” Whether she will race on or transition to a new career as a broodmare remains to be seen, but her Saturday performance left no doubt where her brilliance is concerned.
While Lady Kate rushed to the front for an opening quarter in :23.11, Monomoy Girl settled kindly in hand while tracking fourth. Harvest Moon took over to show the way through a half in :46.03 and three-quarters in 1:09.94, but Monomoy Girl was looming four wide through the second turn, and took over through a 1:34.86 mile before edging clear in the final furlong.
The final time was 1:47.84 on a fast track. Sent off as the even-money favorite in a 10-horse field, Monomoy Girl returned $4 on a $2 win ticket.
Valiance circled the pack with a five wide move and kept on for the place, and was followed home by Dunbar Road in third.
“What a mare, just exceptional,” Geroux said. “She’s a mare of a lifetime, very rare. It’s like finding a diamond. When you have it, you do the best you can. It’s a gift. Even after all she’s been through, being off a year and a half, to come back and still be at the top of her game is unreal. I’m super thankful for the opportunity that Brad and the owners have given me.”
Cox brought the mare back from the sideline after she missed the entire 2019 season. First a bout of colic first sent her to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital for treatment and then to WinStar Farm for a lengthy recovery, then a gluteal strain caused her to miss a start in last year’s Distaff. But her 2020 season was perfect as she took a May allowance event, the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes July 11 at Belmont Park, the Sept. 4 La Troienne Stakes Presented by Oak Grove Racing and Gaming at Churchill Downs, and the Distaff.
Watching his charge win at Keeneland Saturday, Cox felt the weight of the world lift from his shoulders. The victory put a cherry on the top of the trainer’s remarkable four total Breeders’ Cup wins over the weekend, joined with Essential Quality in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Aunt Pearl in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Knicks Go in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
“Honestly, it’s a relief,” he said. “She means the world to me and it’s a lot of pressure when we run her. I don’t know why, it just is. It’s been a long road back. She’s a real racehorse. She’s meant so much for so many people’s lives. She’s an amazing creature. I love her to pieces.
“Words can’t even describe it. I think she plays a big role in our other three Breeders Cup victories over the weekend. She’s meant so much to so many people’s lives. She was my first Grade 1 winner here at Keeneland. I’m just so proud of her.”
Fan-Favorite Whitmore Dominant in Sprint
In his fourth try at the six-furlong Sprint — after earning a runner-up finish in 2018 and third-place finish last year — the 7-year-old Whitmore would not be denied as he saved ground early and rallied from 10th to storm past rivals C Z Rocket and Empire of Gold in the stretch to secure a 3 1/4-length victory.
“I think he wants it,” winning trainer Ron Moquett, with tears in his eyes, summed up Whitmore’s desire to NBC moments after the race.
While Whitmore had finished off the board in his two previous starts, Moquett saw improvement in the Pleasantly Perfect gelding in his most recent start, a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes at the same trip Oct. 2 at Keeneland. Before the race Moquett noted that this year’s edition of the Sprint didn’t have a monster standout, like last year’s winner Mitole and 2017-’18 victor Roy H.
“To be the fastest horse in the world, you have to beat the fastest horses in the world,” Moquett said. “And today, we’re the fastest.”—Frank Angst
Order of Australia Draws In, Posts Stunning Mile Upset
Top international trainer Aidan O'Brien pulled off the biggest stunner of the Breeders' Cup World Championships by winning the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile Presented by PDJF with 73.20-1 Order of Australia and also conditioning the next two finishers. After going 0-for-24 in the race, it was quite a way to win his first Mile.
Order of Australia delivered a second win on Championship Saturday for French jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot, who got his first with Audarya in the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (see below).
Owned by Aidan O’Brien’s wife Anne Marie O'Brien with the Coolmore Stud-affiliated Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier, and Michael Tabor, Order of Australia drew into the race off the also-eligible list with the scratch of One Master. Jockey Christophe Soumillon was originally scheduled to ride Order of Australia but tested positive for COVID-19 Nov. 5 and had to enter isolation, which opened the door for Boudot, who had originally planned to ride One Master, to get the mount.
"It's been unbelievable," Boudot said after the race. "Aidan told me he is a fast and proper horse (for) the mile and the ground. I took a position behind the leaders and he traveled very nicely, and then he gave me a nice turn of foot."
Order of Australia overcame a slow start and sat in fourth through six furlongs before angling out and finishing with a rush, holding off O'Brien's Circus Maximus to win by a neck in 1:33.73. O'Brien's third entrant, Lope Y Fernandez, finished a late-closing third, three-quarters of a length back.
"We always felt that a mile on fast ground and flat track is what he wanted," said O'Brien. "We felt maybe we were running him too far. This was the first time he really got the conditions he really wanted." –Eric Mitchell
Fast-Closing Tarnawa Too Good in Longines Turf
Tarnawa, a 4-year-old Shamardal filly and Aga Khan homebred, won her fourth consecutive race in the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. She is the first Breeders’ Cup winner for veteran trainer Dermot Weld and Irish jockey Colin Keane.
Weld came into the World Championships with just one third-place finish with 16 previous Breeders’ Cup starters and had said that he felt Tarnawa gave him his best chance yet.
The winner stalked the pace and then showed tremendous acceleration less than a dozen strides from the finish line to pass pacesetter Channel Maker and win by a length in 2:28.02.
Magical finished second, a nose in front of Channel Maker.—Bob Ehalt
Audarya Collars Rushing Fall in Filly and Mare Turf
The 4-year-old Wootton Bassett filly ridden by Pierre-Charles Boudot pulled off the upset over Rushing Fall, a formidable favorite with five graded wins at the Lexington track. She rallied from seventh to complete 1 3/16 miles in 1:52.72.
Audarya’s odds did not necessarily reflect her recent record, but she was up against a slew of North American Grade 1 winners that included the Chad Brown-trained pair of Rushing Fall and Sistercharlie, as well as the highly regarded multiple graded stakes winner Mean Mary, beaten a neck by Rushing Fall in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes. Audarya secured her first stakes victory only two starts back, winning the Aug. 23 Darley Prix Jean Romanet, a Group 1 race at Deauville, by a neck. She returned Oct. 4 at Longchamp to finish a good third in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera Longines.
Audarya’s two Group 1 efforts came on soft and heavy turf in Europe, and trainer James Fanshawe said the possibility of firmer turf at Keeneland was a concern.
“Before she ran at Deauville, we were concerned about the race,” Fanshawe said. “As you can see now, she’s a very good mover and I think she goes on any ground, but the Deauville race was 4 years upwards fillies, so that was sort of a nice Group 1, and she held the ground really well. And she’s a good mover, so I think she held the firmer ground. Easy to say in hindsight.”—Christine Oser
Record-Setting Knicks Go Rolls in Dirt Mile
In winning Nov. 7 at the Lexington track in the $1 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile over Jesus’ Team and Sharp Samurai, the 4-year-old Paynter colt sizzled a mile in a track-record 1:33.85.
This followed a 10 1/4-length third-level allowance optional claiming victory at the track last month when he was timed in 1:40.79 for 1 1/16 miles.
Though the Keeneland main track played quickly Saturday, Knicks Go’s performance in the Dirt Mile was eye-catching all the same. The 9-5 favorite left the gate sharply under Joel Rosario, and lowered the prior track mark of 1:34.54 established by Liam’s Map in winning the Dirt Mile in 2015.—Byron King
Fairy-Tale Finish for Glass Slippers in Turf Sprint
Closing up the inside and splitting horses in midstretch, the homebred 4-year-old daughter of Dream Ahead scored a 10.20-1 upset in the 5 1/2-furlong event, giving owners Terry and Margaret Holdcroft of Bearstone Stud, trainer Kevin Ryan, and jockey Tom Eaves their first wins on the world’s greatest stage.
“We have had a program for her for the whole season and we have not budged from that program and thankfully, thank God, it’s worked out for us,” Terry Holdcroft said. “I think she’s the best one that we have bred and I think we are very lucky to have her, very lucky to keep her and not to have sold her.”
Second by a neck last out in the Oct. 4 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp — a race she won in 2019 — Glass Slippers added a third top-level race to her resume, along with the Sept. 13 Darrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes. The ease with which she traveled multiple times to France from Ryan’s Hambleton yard gave her connections the confidence to tackle America after she aced the Flying Five, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event in Ireland that earned her an automatic berth in the Turf Sprint.
“It’s been a funny year for us, but we sort of plan the races out,” Ryan said. “She’s a filly that improves as the season goes on. When she won in Ireland, we sort of then planned to come here to give her the time. We weren’t tempted to go to Ascot for Champion’s Day. We said, ‘Let’s have a crack at the Breeders’ Cup.’ Being five and a half furlongs, like we both agreed, that extra half a furlong would be massive for her.”—Claire Crosby
Gamine Romps in Filly and Mare Sprint
Since stepping into the starting gate for the first time in her career in March, the career of 3-year-old Gamine has been followed by accolades and rumors. Her victories — while decisive and record-making in many cases — have also been shaded by the specter of possible drug contamination.
But through it all, the inquests and the accusations, owner Michael Lund Petersen and trainer Bob Baffert have never wavered in their conviction that Gamine’s sheer talent could silence any wagging tongues.
So when their filly ran down the field in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and set the second track-record of her short career in the same breath, the owner-trainer team proved once again that Gamine is real deal.
“I have never trained a filly of this caliber going one turn,” said Baffert. “Today she was great. She was perfect. She ran straight as a string and just had it all together. She showed what a wonderful filly she is and there was no doubt today how brilliant she is. That was a tough field.”— Meredith Daugherty