Monomoy Girl took charge near the far turn, and the filly outdueled Wonder Gadot down the stretch to win the $1 million Kentucky Oaks by half a length on Friday at Churchill Downs.
A race expected to match the top two 3-year-old fillies in No. 2 Monomoy Girl and points leader Midnight Bisou, the morning-line favorites, soon became Monomoy Girl’s to lose. The chestnut filly charged from the outside No. 14 post into contention and the lead and held ground in a thrilling side-by-side stretch battle with Wonder Gadot before Monomoy Girl kept the small edge to the wire.
“I couldn’t be any happier,” winning jockey Florent Geroux said. “It’s just a dream come true. I have been very lucky and fortunate to win some of the biggest races in the world.
“She’s just incredible. She just keep on running. At the end, it’s not like she’s getting tired. She just lose focus. She can see every little detail there is on the track. I even know what she’s looking at. She can see everything. From there, I just tried to keep her riding as hard as I can and make sure I keep her straight. That’s kind of my job.”
Wonder Gadot’s team filed a foul claim against Monomoy Girl for a bump down the stretch, but racing stewards dismissed the claim, giving Monomoy Girl her sixth win in seven starts and trainer Brad Cox a signature hometown win in the 144th running of the Kentucky Oaks.
“It’s incredible,” co-owner Michael Dubb said. “Stu (Grant) and I have had together the two favorites in the Kentucky Oaks previously, Grace Hall and Condo Commando … They both got beat. Today I was really confident. There was no nerves.”
Monomoy Girl covered 11/8 miles in 1:49.13 and paid $7.20, $4.60 and $3.60.
“We know she’s a filly that she doesn’t really like to be ridden aggressively, I guess, is the term,” Cox said. “But Florent, obviously, had to get aggressive with her today. And she responded. Huge effort, means a lot. Obviously, the biggest victory in my career.”
Wonder Gadot returned $14 and $7.20.
“We were battling head and head down the stretch,” John Velazquez, jockey for Wonder Gadot, 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 sixteenth of a mile she goes back to her left lead because she got bumped.”
Mark Casse, Wonder Gadot’s trainer, mentioned the contact between horses late in the race, “but I think the stewards made the right call. To take a horse down in this type of race, it would have to be pretty significant. As much as I’d like to say I would like to have won, I understand the ruling. I’m very proud of her. She’s definitely a wonder woman.
“She has a lot (of heart). I can tell you, you come back there (to the barn) in an hour and if you’re not careful she’ll kick you. She’s a tough filly, so I’m proud of her. The filly that won it is a super filly. I think the decision was fair. I think we were right in claiming foul because there was contact three times, and like I said, the third one caused us to jump our lead.”
Midnight Bisou finished third, paying $3.20 while having its three-race winning streak snapped.
“The inside horses made a right turn leaving the gate and ran right into me,” said Mike Smith, jockey for Midnight Bisou. “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.”