Monomoy Girl notches fourth straight Grade 1 win in capturing Coaching Club American Oaks

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Monomoy Girl maintained her place atop the 3-year-old filly division, surging to the front, maintaining the lead and outkicking worthy challenger Midnight Bisou for a three-length win in the 102nd running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.

Monomoy Girl’s front-running effort garnered her fifth straight win and fourth consecutive victory in a Grade 1, adding to her impressive efforts in the Ashland, Kentucky Oaks and Acorn. The daughter of Tapizar has eight wins from nine career starts, with her only losing effort coming when Road to Victory defeated her by a neck in the Grade 2 Golden Rod in November at Churchill Downs.

Under jockey Florent Geroux, Monomoy Girl broke well, racing with 25-1 longshot Gio Game to the front. The 1-2 favorite established the edge, leading the five-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 24.12 seconds and the half in 48.23 on a main track labeled fast.

Out of the far turn, 6-5 second-choice Midnight Bisou made a bid from the outside, taking over second position. But Monomoy Girl extended her lead in midstretch and completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:50.46. She is 4-1-0 in five starts at distances exceeding one mile.

“I put this race up there as high any of her other Grade 1 wins this year,” said trainer Brad Cox. “It wasn’t a big field, but it was a mile and an eighth. I think there’s a still a question mark if that’s her best distance, but she proved today that she can do. She’s got speed and puts herself in the race.

“She certainly brings it every time,” he added. “At the quarter-pole I was very confident. I told Florent to ride her with confidence but ask her to leave her. That’s the only thing I told him. We knew she’s comfortable on the lead. Around two turns I think we can do that. One turn, she can sit off a horse or two, but ultimately that depends on how much other speed is in the race.”

Owned by Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stables, Monomoy Girl paid $3 on a $2 win wager. The Kentucky-bred millionaire improved her career bankroll to $1,660,750.

“I thought that I had the best horse coming into the race and I rode her like she was: take no prisoners, just take it to them right away and keep on going,” Geroux said. “Sometimes, she’ll put the brakes on by the three-eighths pole and stuff, looking around and slowing herself down. Today, she stayed a little bit longer, maybe all the way until the eighth pole and at the end, she was really waiting on company. That’s why the margin is never going to like 15 lengths, but I had a plenty in the tank.”

Cox said Monomoy Girl could have a return engagement at the Spa in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama at 1 1/4 miles on August 18, which could set up a start in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November at Churchill.

“The Alabama is certainly a possibility. It’s probably two more races this year: one more and then the Breeders’ Cup,” Cox said. “We’ll let her determine where we are with her in terms of races. If today’s race was a mile and a quarter, I would have been confident with her coming in going another eighth of a mile. She’s not regressing, she gets bigger, stronger, shinier every race.”

Midnight Bisou, owned by Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables and Allen Racing, was coming off a six-length win in the Grade 2 Mother Goose on June 30 at Belmont. Under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, the Midnight Lute filly finished 3 ½ lengths clear of Chocolate Martini for second.

Midnight Bisou was facing Monomoy Girl for the first time since running third in the Kentucky Oaks on May 4 at Churchill.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing for her to get beat, but she’s a good filly. She just got beat by a good filly,” said Midnight Bisou Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Smith saw his bid for a third straight Coaching Club American Oaks win thwarted. He won the previous two editions with Abel Tasman last year and Songbird in 2016.

“I saw that she had company, I thought that would be good, then I realized we weren’t going very quick down the backside so I tipped out, and tried to press the pace, just get her moving,” Smith said. “I was very confident going into the far turn, I thought I had a shot at them, but then she kicked into another gear, but look, it’s not like she just got beat by some horse.”

Chocolate Martini, off at 43-1, earned a piece of the purse against graded stakes company for a second straight start. The Tom Amoss trainee also was third last out in the Grade 2 Summer Oaks on June 16 at Santa Anita.