It was neck-and-neck between Road to Victory and Monomoy Girl throughout Saturday’s $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs, and that was all that separated the duo on the wire of the points contest to next year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Monomoy Girl grabbed command at the start and set pressured splits of :23.81, :46.87, 1:11.11 and 1:36.59 with Road to Victory latched onto her outside. Those two continued their battle into the lane, with the leader angling off the rail and Road to Victory going three wide. Monomoy Girl managed to turn back a challenge from her rival in midstretch and appeared a winner, but Road to Victory dug in under jockey Julien Leparoux and drew even before inching clear of her leg-weary foe on the line.
Road to Victory paid $16.40 as the 7-1 third choice in the 12-filly field, finishing 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:43.36. The Golden Rod is part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races and awarded the bay miss 10 points toward a starting berth in next year’s Run for the Lilies.
Monomoy Girl was game in defeat as the 4-5 favorite, suffering her first loss following a 6 1/2-length romp in the Rags to Riches Stakes over the track. She had 5 3/4 lengths to spare on Cash Out in third, and it was another two lengths back to Dessert Honeys in fourth. Those three earned 4-2-1 points, respectively, for the 2018 Kentucky Oaks.
Completing the order under the wire in the Golden Rod were Ipanema Beach, Sultry, Stronger Than Ever, Foxtrot Sally, Caroline the Great, Kelly’s Humor, Undivided and Deadline.
Road to Victory is now two-for-two for trainer Mark Casse, and has banked $144,670 lifetime for owners Gary Barber and John C. Oxley. The Quality Road lass broke her maiden by 3 1/2 lengths at first asking on October 1 over Woodbine’s turf course and was trying dirt for the first time in this spot.
Bred in Kentucky by George Bolton and David DiPietro, Road to Victory is the first registered stakes winner out of the unraced Tiznow mare Favoritism, who is herself a daughter of Grade 3-placed Chaste and a half-sister to the dam of Japanese Group 1 hero Moanin. This is the female family of champion Evening Out as well as two-time Canadian Horse of the Year and seven-time Canadian champion Overskate.
GOLDEN ROD QUOTES
Julien Leparoux, jockey Road to Victory, winner
“We sat in the right spot throughout the race. I didn’t want the leader to get too far away from us. She tried really hard and came back at the end. We felt she didn’t need the lead but relaxed in second. We knew the favorite would be on the lead and we just ran her down.”
Norman Casse, assistant trainer Road to Victory, winner
“You don’t know how they’ll take to the dirt until they run the race. Dad (trainer Mark Casse) sent her down here to see if she was a quality dirt horse and she’s had no bad days since we’ve had her. She prepared so well for this race. It’s extra rewarding to win two-year-old stakes races because it’s a testament to our program. I take a lot of pride winning on these types of races at our home track.”
Florent Geroux, jockey Monomoy Girl, second
“The winner just ran us down right at the end. The other filly (Road to Victory) was right next to me all the way and she kept my filly busy, and ran me down at the end. I thought I had it for a little bit.”
Brad Cox, trainer Monomoy Girl, second
“I’m disappointed to be honest, but she’s a nice filly and hopefully she’ll recover from that and somehow get back here on Oaks Day. They went a little quick up front and she really didn’t get a breather down the backside, being pressed the whole way. But she’s a nice filly.”
Your filly spurted away from the winner a bit in upper stretch
“Julien (Leparoux on Road to Victory) is a smart rider and it looked like he had horse left, and he did. She did kind of spurt away a little bit, but I thought the race around the turn and up the backside kind of took its toll on her a little bit late. I think that’s why she was kind of getting a little leg-weary.”
Rusty Arnold, trainer Cash Out (third) and Ipanema Beach (fifth)
“I was real pleased with both of my fillies. Cash Out had run all of her races on the turf and we were trying her on the dirt for the first time and she ran really well. I was really happy with our other filly (Ipanema Beach). She was a maiden who had run well first time out, but she was going two turns and was out there in the 12-hole. But she was really running in the stretch and I thought she was running faster than anybody down the lane.”