by TERESA GENARO
The distinctive pink and yellow silks of Michael Dubb are a familiar sight on the racetracks of New York, but for only the second time, they graced Monomoy Girl in the Empire State. In eight previous races, she’d run in Indiana, Kentucky, and Louisiana, finally getting to New York in June for the Acorn (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
But if the sight of the spectacular filly has been a rarity in New York—she’s been training at Brad Cox’s Churchill Downs barn—the sight of her in the winner’s circle is anything but, and she got her fifth straight win in the Coaching Clubs American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga on July 22. Her fourth consecutive Grade 1 tally following the Ashland (G1), Kentucky Oaks (G1), and Acorn strengthened her grip on champion three-year-old filly honors.
A neck shy of being undefeated, the chestnut filly broke from post 4 under Florent Geroux, who’s been in the saddle for all of her races except the first. Taking a slim lead in the five-horse field, she led the way throughout the nine furlongs, well under wraps early, pulling away with ease late to win by three lengths on a fast track. Her most significant rival, Midnight Bisou, could get no closer.
A modest $100,000 purchase at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, Monomoy Girl was selected by Liz Crow—the first ticket she ever signed as a bloodstock agent at Elite Sales.
“This is my ‘first crop,’ of three-year-olds,” said Crow with a laugh in the winner’s circle. “I could go the rest of my life and not have a horse this good, so I’m taking it all in. She means the world to us.”
Monomoy Girl was bred in Kentucky by FPF LLC and Highfield Ranch. By Tapizar out of the Henny Hughes mare Drumette, she was purchased as a yearling by Dubb, Sol Kumin’s Monomoy Stables, Stuart Grant’s The Elkstone Group, and Michael Caruso’s Bethlehem Stables. She’s earned $1.66 million.
Dubb, Grant, and Caruso have been partners for more than a decade, and while a threat of bad weather kept Caruso away from Saratoga today, Dubb and Grant stood in the winner’s circle with their arms around each other’s shoulders, grinning from ear to ear.
“It’s fun,” said Grant, “to do this with partners you’ve been doing it with for a decade plus.
“Our family’s here; we’ve watched each other’s kids grow up.”
Those families, along with Kumin’s, swarmed onto the track to congratulate the filly who isn’t exactly know for liking humans. She tolerated their presence with a majesty not uncommon for the good ones, as professional an object of adoration as she is a racehorse.
“She can bite and nip,” admitted Crow. “It’s her way or no way. But fair enough–she’s earned it.”
Additional quotes from NYRA
Winning rider Florent Geroux: “I thought that I had the best horse coming into the race and I rode her like she was: take no prisoners, just take it to them right away and keep on going. Sometimes, she’ll put the brakes on by the three-eighths pole and stuff, looking around and slowing herself down. Today, she stayed a little bit longer, maybe all the way until the eighth pole and at the end, she was really waiting on company. That’s why the margin is never going to like 15 lengths, but I had a plenty in the tank.”.
Winning trainer Brad Cox: “I put this race up there as high any of her other Grade 1 wins this year. It wasn’t a big field, but it was a mile and an eighth. I think there’s a still a question mark if that’s her best distance, but she proved today that she can do. She’s got speed and puts herself in the race.
“She certainly brings it every time. At the quarter-pole I was very confident. I told Florent to ride her with confidence but ask her to leave her. That’s the only thing I told him. We knew she’s comfortable on the lead. Around two turns I think we can do that. One turn, she can sit off a horse or two, but ultimately that depends on how much other speed is in the race.”
On Monomoy Girl’s next start: “The Alabama (G1) is certainly a possibility. It’s probably two more races this year: one more and then the Breeders’ Cup (Distaff [G1]). We’ll let her determine where we are with her in terms of races. If today’s race was a mile and a quarter, I would have been confident with her coming in going another eighth of a mile. She’s not regressing, she gets bigger, stronger, shinier every race.”
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith on his view aboard runner-up Midnight Bisou: “I saw that she (Monomoy Girl) had company, I thought that would be good, then I realized we weren’t going very quick down the backside so I tipped out, and tried to press the pace, just get her moving. I was very confident going into the far turn, I thought I had a shot at them, but then she (Monomoy Girl) kicked into another gear, but look, it’s not like she just got beat by some horse.”
Midnight Bisou’s Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen: “Obviously, it’s disappointing for her to get beat, but she’s a good filly. She just got beat by a good filly.”