Monomoy Girl wins Breeders’ Cup Distaff in record-tying weekend for trainer Brad Cox

Florent Geroux rides Monomoy Girl to victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Florent Geroux rides Monomoy Girl to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

It’s the kind of comeback story made for the movies, especially when it involves an animal. Monomoy Girl had won the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs and was destined for more. But then she had a series of physical problems and did not race for 18 months.

Fast forward to Saturday at the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky. It was set to be her final race before being sold. She was facing Swiss Skydiver, a filly who beat male horses in the Preakness Stakes a month before.

But the expected matchup never developed as Swiss Skydiver stumbled out of the gate, seriously compromising her chances to win. So, Monomoy Girl ran slightly behind and outside the leader, Harvest Moon, until exiting the far turn where she put things in gear and won her second $2-million Breeders’ Cup Distaff by 1¾ lengths.

It was also the fourth Breeders’ Cup win of the weekend for trainer Brad Cox, tying a record held by Richard Mandella since 2003. Cox won the Juvenile with Essential Quality and the Juvenile Fillies Turf with Aunt Pearl, both on Friday. On Saturday, Cox also won the Dirt Mile with Knicks Go.

“Honestly, it’s a relief,” Cox said of Monomoy Girl. “She means the world to me and it’s a lot of pressure when we run her. I don’t know why. It just is. It’s been a long road back. … I love her to pieces.”


Monomoy Girl wins Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Saturday.

Winning jockey Florent Geroux also could not add enough superlatives.

“She’s a mare of a lifetime,” Geroux said. “It’s like finding a diamond. … Even after all she’s been through, being off a year and a half, to come back and still be at the top of her game is unreal.”

It was Monomoy Girl’s 11th straight win and fourth since returning from the layoff. It was her 13th win in 15 lifetime starts. Unless the ownership group changes its mind on this 5-year-old mare, she will be sold, probably to spend time as a broodmare.

Monomoy Girl paid $4.00, $3.00 and $2.40. Valiance was second and Dunbar Road finished third.

Gamine shook off a lackluster performance in the Kentucky Oaks to rebound with a track-record performance (1:20.20) in the seven-furlong Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. The 3-year-old filly is better known as the Bob Baffert horse that tested twice this year for medication violations, one leading to a disqualification at Oaklawn Park and the other in the Kentucky Oaks, which is awaiting a hearing.

Essential Quality won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by three-quarters of a length, becoming the first of what could be several Kentucky Derby favorites.

Gamine ($4.20 to win) sat second off leader Serengeti Empress and then moved outside and pulled even entering the stretch. Then Gamine did something she has never done before, passed another horse in the stretch. She surged and won by 6 ¼ lengths.

“She is just brilliant,” Baffert said. “She is the fastest filly going one turn I’ve ever trained. I wanted it bad for her [after] what she’s gone through. She deserved it. Of all my races, this meant the most to me.”

In other Breeders’ Cup races, Glass Slippers ($22.40) slipped smartly between horses to win the 5 ½-furlong Turf Sprint by half a length. Knicks Go ($5.60) went gate to wire in a track-record 1:33.85 to win the Dirt Mile by 3 ½ lengths. Audarya ($37.60) went ahead in the final strides to win the 1 3/16-mile Filly & Mare Turf by a neck. Whitmore ($38.80), a 7-year-old gelding, moved on the far turn of the six-furlong Sprint to win by 3 ¼ lengths. Trainer Aidan O’Brien took the top three spots in the Turf Mile, with longshot Order Of Australia ($148.40) winning it. Tarnawa ($11.40) rallied wide in the stretch to win the 1 ½-mile Turf by one length. All the races were worth at least $1 million.

On the non-Breeders’ Cup undercard, Absolutely Aiden had to be euthanized when he suffered bone separations in his left front fetlock. The 4-year-old colt was running second when he broke down, causing two other horses to trip over him. All three jockeys were unseated, but the two other horses continued running. The jockeys were unhurt.