March 23, 2019

Cox eyeing Acorn with Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl

Monomoy Girl won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at from post 14 and will break from post 11 in Saturday's Distaff (G1) (c) Jamie Newell/Horsephotos.com

Monomoy Girl exited her half-length victory in Friday’s 144th running of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs in good order, according to trainer Brad Cox.

“It was amazing,” said the Louisville, Kentucky, native, who grew up just two blocks away from Churchill Downs. “It’s more than you would ever expect as far as the excitement and the thrill. It was an amazing race. It was an unbelievable quarter-mile. From the quarter pole to the wire, it was a battle. It was intense. It was a great outcome for us for sure. I couldn’t be happier.”

Cox actually saddled three runners in the Oaks, with Sassy Sienna finishing sixth and Kelly’s Humor running eighth in front of an on-track crowd of 113,510. Those two also came out of the Run for the Lilies well.

“So far so good,” he said. “I’m real pleased with how Monomoy Girl looks this morning. I’m pleased with all three of them.”

The horseman said the $700,000 Acorn Stakes (G1) on the June 9 Belmont Stakes (G1) undercard is the next logical spot for Monomoy Girl. That contest will see the chestnut daughter of Tapizar shorten up from 1 1/8 miles to eight furlongs.

Wonder Gadot nearly got the best of Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks, hooking up with her rival in the lane and battling all the way to the finish line. The stretch-long duel saw the two fillies make contact and led to Wonder Gadot’s rider, John Velazquez, lodging an objection after the race, but the stewards made no changes.

“I’ve always said that Monomoy Girl is a superhorse, and I still believe that,” trainer Mark Casse said. “There was definitely some contact, but in a race of that significance, it needs to be severe, and it was not. So I agree with the stewards’ decision and I’m proud of our filly, and what a great job (trainer) Brad Cox has done with his filly.”

Forced to settle for second, Wonder Gadot was on her toes Saturday morning.

“She is amazing, she’s bouncing around. That’s her right there,” Casse said, gesturing to the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro as she walked the shedrow in front of stablemate and Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful Flameaway.

Casse indicated Wonder Gadot would remain at Churchill for a few days before shipping back to where her career started – Woodbine in Toronto. Once at the Canadian track, the dark bay sophomore will begin preparations for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks on June 9.

“That’s where she started, and they know her well, so I think it probably would make sense to get her up there and train over that track,” he said. “She actually loves the (synthetic) Tapeta (main track), but of course we haven’t found much she doesn’t love.

“A good performance there and she’ll probably run in the (June 30) Queen’s Plate.”

Midnight Bisou was sent off the 2-1 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks and finished third, beaten 4 1/4 lengths by Monomoy Girl.

“She’s OK, thank goodness,” trainer Bill Spawr said.  “I just wish we would have been in a fair fight.”

Midnight Bisou suffered a troubled trip in which she was brushed and hit on both sides out of the gate, which “took the air” out of the Midnight Lute lass, according to jockey Mike Smith.

“Mike told me that the first bang tilted him sideways and almost took his right foot out of the stirrup,” Spawr said. “Then when she got rolling on the turn for home, he got hit again.

“But she’s all right this morning and that’s what really matters. She’s better than I thought she would be.”

Midnight Bisou is scheduled to fly back to Spawr’s Santa Anita Park headquarters in Southern California on Tuesday morning.

Eskimo Kisses will get a break following a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks for trainer Kenny McPeek.

“She’s doing fine after the race,” assistant trainer Jeff Hiles said. “We’re going to give her some time off and point to races later this summer and fall.”

My Miss Lilly will ship back to trainer Mark Hennig’s New York base on Monday following her 11th-place effort in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks.

“Days like that, the lack of experience shows up,” Hennig said, referring to My Miss Lilly’s four career starts before the Oaks. “When you’re running in those kinds of races it sure pays to have the experience. I thought the winner ran fabulous.”

Hennig said he has no plans yet for her next race.

“Where she’s been running, it wasn’t ideal, we never got to give her real good spacing because she broke her maiden in December. It will be nice now to kind of regroup with her and run her when we want to rather than when the race dictates you have to stay on the trail.”

Dubai import Rayya, who switched from trainer Doug Watson to Bob Baffert once arriving stateside, “came back good” the morning after her 13th-place run in the Oaks, according to assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes.

The front-running chestnut daughter of Tiz Wonderful lost all chance when hopping at the start of the Oaks and spotting the field about four lengths. From there she started to get out, presumable weary of the kickback that she’s unaccustomed to, and never found her stride after that.

“She missed the break and if you weren’t one-two-three yesterday, close to the lead or on the rail, you had no chance,” Barnes said. “It was over at the start for her. Once you hop, it’s over.”