Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stables’ Monomoy Girl dug in gamely and out-dueled rival Wonder Gadot down the Churchill Downs stretch to snatch victory by a half-length in the 144th running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday. The Brad Cox-trained daughter of Tapizar was ridden to victory by regular jockey Florent Geroux.
Shortly after crossing the wire, Wonder Gadot’s jockey, John Velazquez, lodged a claim of foul against the winner for bumping with his mount several times down the lane. The stewards reviewed the multiple incidents and, after a delay of several minutes, allowed the result to stand.
After a clean break for all, except Rayya, who balked briefly after the gates sprung open and spotted the field a handful of lengths, Take Charge Paula sped to the front and led the field of 14 past the grandstand for the first time and through the first half-mile in splits of :23.48 and :47.70, with Sassy Sienna closest to the outside and the winner farthest out, but not more than two lengths back. As Monomoy Girl made her way around the far turn, she had passed Sassy Sienna and had only the frontrunner in her crosshairs; it was only a handful of strides before she was well in front in time to post three-quarters in 1:11.49.
Just as it appeared it would be a cruise control drive for home for Monomoy Girl at the top of the stretch, Wonder Gadot was closing, as was a charging Midnight Bisou. Wonder Gadot almost got past Monomoy Girl past the eighth pole in 1:36.67 and the pair grazed each other ever so briefly in deep stretch, but Monomoy Girl proved game and snagged the win, stopping the clock in 1:49.13 over a fast main track.
“This is an unbelievable feeling,” Geroux said. “The filly was sharp early and I just hustled her out of the gate to get a good position. From there I was pretty confident, but when I hit the quarter pole, her ears were flopping back and forth and she tried putting the brakes on me until she saw Wonder Gadot. When the other filly got head to head, I gave her a few slaps to keep her interested, but she can be quirky. You can get after her too much and she stops. I kept hand riding her and she pulled away at the end.”
Monomoy Girl is a daughter of Tapizar and the Henny Hughes mare Drumette and was bred in Kentucky by FPF LLC and Highfield Ranch. She was a $100,000 Keeneland September Yearling in 2016. From seven career starts, she’s now recorded six wins, including the Golden Rod Stakes (GII), Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GII) and Ashland Stakes (GI), and has banked $1,120,750.
“It was unbelievable,” Cox said. “It worked out just the way we planned. That was the trip we were hoping for. Florent did a great job getting her out of the gate and getting her into position. She was three wide into the first turn. That was kind of what we expected. It all went well. She was able to put herself where she needed to be and kick on down the lane. She did look like she got a little hesitant at the quarter pole and Florent said he had to stay on to her. She responded and finished strong down the lane.”
As the 5-2 favorite, Monomoy Girl returned $7.20, $4.60 and $3.60. Wonder Gadot, was worth $14 and $7.20 at odds of nearly 17-1, while favored Midnight Bisou, who was 3 ¾ lengths back in third, was good for $3.20 at odds of more than 2-1. The $2 exacta paid $96.80 and the trifecta (50 cents) was worth $90.60.
Eskimo Kisses, Chocolate Martini, Sassy Sienna, Coach Rocks, Kelly’s Humor, Heavenhasmynikki, Classy Act, My Miss Lilly, Patrona Margarita, Rayya and Take Charge Paula completed the order of finish.
“We were battling head and head down the stretch,” Velazquez explained of the bumping incident. “When they came out and knocked her sideways, she went back to the left lead. At least I have to take a chance on it. I mean, I’m fighting the whole way around and all of a sudden the last sixteenth of a mile she goes back to her left lead because she got bumped.”