Everyone wanted to see if Abel Tasman’s lackluster last race was just a fluke or something more. It turns out, it wasn’t a fluke.
Monomoy Girl won the $2-million Distaff being contested on the Breeders’ Cup undercard Saturday as opposed to it being the marquee event Friday, which is where it has been for several years. The 3-year-old filly is definitely no fluke, having crossed the finish line first in 10 of her 11 races. In her last start she was disqualified to second for interference in the stretch.
There was no one who could challenge Monomoy Girl once the horses came into the stretch, winning by a deceptively small one length at Churchill Downs. She paid $5.60 to win with Wow Cat second and Midnight Bisou in third.
Still, the most baffling thing about the 1 1/8-mile race is what’s going on with Eclipse Award-winning Abel Tasman, who finished 11th in the 11-horse race. After a second in the Santa Anita Oaks last year, she has been running nothing but Grade 1s, winning six of them in a 16-race career. She has won eight races lifetime.
But she ran a disappointing fifth in the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita about a month ago. Most dismissed it as a blip, but clearly it wasn’t.
“I wish I knew what was wrong with her,” jockey Mike Smith said. “I wish it was something I can tell you so I can fix it.”
Trainer Bob Baffert was not so generous.
“She just quit,” Baffert said. “She just quit running. Sometimes they do that. I thought she was in a good spot, he [Smith] got aggressive with her, but she just doesn’t want to run anymore it looks like.”
Retirement might be the next step.
Monomoy Girl was full of run for trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux.
“She ran the way she was training,” Cox said. “She was training like a monster and she ran like a monster. She is a special filly, one of a kind, an unbelievable filly.”
Trainer Peter Miller won his first two Breeders’ Cup races last year at Del Mar. On Saturday, he came back and won the same races. And with the same horses. It started when Stormy Liberal won the 5½ -furlong Turf Sprint, barely getting by World Of Trouble to win at the wire by a neck. Three races later Roy H won the six-furlong Sprint in dominating fashion by 3¼ lengths.
While it was familiar to Miller, it was new to the two jockeys, each winning his first Breeders’ Cup race. Drayden Van Dyke has been riding Stormy Liberal the last three races taking over from Joel Rosario. Paco Lopez had ridden Roy H in the past but only once recently as Kent Desormeaux had been getting the mount.
Both horses are 6-year-old geldings that may still be running at 7.
“Both these horses are very sound and they are easy on themselves,” Miller said. “So, as long as they like and enjoy their job, like they obviously do right now, we’ll just keep going. When they tell us they’re no longer willing or able to do it, we’ll give them a good retirement.”
Beating the boys
There were only two fillies in the $4-million Turf and they came up one-two. Enable, who has won nine of 10 lifetime, fought hard to pass Magical in deep stretch to win by three-quarters of a length. It was Enable’s first race in the United States. Seven of the 13 horses are based outside the U.S.
Enable is coming off a second win in the prestigious Arc de Triomphe in France. She did have to work to get to the front, but in the end the 1½-mile distance proved just right for her. She became the first Arc winner to win a Breeders’ Cup race.
“She was wonderful,” winning trainer John Gosden said. “She’s had a hard race and as usual she showed enormous courage to go and win.”
Frankie Dettori was the winning rider.
Enable’s next move is up in the air.
“There’s no great hurry [to make a decision],” said Teddy Grimthorpe, the racing manager for Juddmonte Farms and Prince Khalid Abdullah. “She’s going back to Newmarket [England]. We’ll make sure she’s all right and then think about the future.”