LOUISVILLE, KY – Jockey Florent Geroux might have just stamped himself as one of the nation’s best big-money riders after a Hall of Fame-worthy ride aboard Monomoy Girl in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1,000,000 Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
Breaking sharply from the far-outside 14 post, Geroux steered Monomoy Girl down enough that she was only three-deep through the first turn while Take Charge Paula set initial splits of :23.48 and :47.70 through the opening 1/2-mile. Taking command into the far turn, Monomoy Girl hit the top of the stretch appearing poised for a dominating finish. Wonder Gadot and jockey John Velazquez, however, had other things in mind, and collared the leader at the 1/8-pole. The two fillies brushed briefly in the final 1/16 of a mile, but Monomoy Girl dug in and repelled Wonder Gadot to cross the wire first by a 1/2-length in a final time of 1:49.13 for the 1 1/8-mile main track event.
“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 1/4-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 crossed the finish line first at the 144th Kentucky Oaks! Presented by @Longines
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) May 4, 2018
Following the race, Velazquez lodged an objection for alleged interference in the final 1/16, but following stewards’ review that seemed to take hours instead of minutes, there was no change to the order of finish.
“We were battling head and head down the stretch,” Velazquez said. “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 1/16 of a mile, she goes back to her left lead because she got bumped.”
Midnight Bisou, the race’s betting favorite that battled Monomoy Girl for betting favoritism leading up to post time, exited post 10 and was immediately hit from her inside by Take Charge Paula out of the 9 hole. The California shipper was then forced to settle near the rear early, not her preferred running style. Under Mike Smith, Midnight Bisou eventually settled and made a wide sweeping move in the far turn but was hit again exiting onto the stretch. All things considered, the filly didn’t have enough left to catch the top pair and crossed in third.
“The inside horses made a right turn leaving the gate and ran right into me,” Smith said. “It cost me quite a bit. It cost me position. I don’t know if the bad start cost me the race, but it cost me enough. We will never know.”
Eskimo Kisses made a rear-running late close similar to Midnight Bisou and missed third by only a 1/2-length under Corey Lanerie.
“We had a great trip,” Lanerie said. “I thought we could have almost gotten third. I had a great run at the top of the stretch but got stopped for just a second. She ran awesome.”
Chocolate Martini struggled to last in the longer distance and flattened in the stretch to take fifth. Sassy Sienna crossed in sixth ahead of Coach Rocks, while Kelly’s Humor necked out eighth past Heavenhasmynikki. In 10th came Classy Act ahead of My Miss Lilly and Patrona Margarita. The “Wise Guy” pick, Rayya, broke very poorly and never advanced past 13th under Drayden Van Dyke, finishing only ahead of an eased Take Charge Paula.
“I don’t think she got to show what she can do,” Van Dyke said. “She hopped at the start, and once she did that, I lost all chance. She’s a frontrunner and doesn’t like to get hit with the kickback. It was all downhill from there. She’s still a classy filly and I hope to get another chance with her again.”
Monomoy Girl’s victory was her third straight graded stakes score and her second straight in a Grade 1 event, following the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes on April 7. The win, which improved Monomoy Girl’s record to 7-6-1-0, was also the second career Grade 1 triumph (along with the Ashland) for local trainer Brad Cox. The 3-year-old daughter of Tapizar increased her career bankroll to $1,120,750 for owners Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group, and Bethlehem Stables.
“It was unbelievable,” said Cox, who grew up only a few blocks from Churchill Downs. “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 1/4-pole and Florent said he had to stay on to her. She responded and finished strong down the lane.”
Monomoy Girl returned $7.20 to win, $4.60 to place, and $3.60 to show. Wonder Gadot brought back $14 to place and $7.20 to show, while Midnight Bisou paid $3.20 to show.