Four Score - By Frank Angst

With Breeders’ Cup-winning 2-year-olds Essential Quality and Aunt Pearl, trainer Brad Cox figures to be spending a lot of time thinking about the future in the days ahead, but his record-tying four-win performance at this year’s Breeders’ Cup most assuredly also celebrates his recent past.

When Monomoy Girl launched a sweeping move to win the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) Nov. 7—contested at Keeneland, no less—Cox was able to see his recent past and current standing all in one glorious stretch run. The champion filly who paved the way for so much of his success was back—after taking the 2019 racing year off—with a decisive, second victory in the Distaff.

Throw in Knicks Go, enjoying the easiest of wins in the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1), and Cox had joined Richard Mandella as the only trainer to win four Breeders’ Cup races in the same weekend. Granted, we’ll continue to reserve the “King Richard” title for Mr. Mandella as his four victories came in 2003 when there were only eight Breeders’ Cup races, as opposed to the current 14.

But talk about wrapping things up with a bow. Monomoy Girl is the first grade 1 winner for Cox through her victory in the 2018 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. The Distaff capped the four-win Breeders’ Cup for Cox and is the trainer’s most recent score at the top level. As Byron King notes in his Distaff recap story, in between those wins there have been 17 other grade 1 triumphs.

How much of a difference can a single horse make?

Consider the owners, and the owners’ goals, of the other three Breeders’ Cup winners trained by Cox. They’ve invested a lot in the 40-year-old Louisville, Ky., native.

Knicks Go is campaigned by the Korea Racing Authority. While the son of Paynter enjoyed success with trainer Ben Colebrook—winning the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at age 2—the owner moved their standout to Cox’s care ahead of 2020. That trust in Cox paid off with a Breeders’ Cup win that will promote Korean racing and breeding and provide the country with a stallion.

The ownership group behind Monomoy Girl: Michael Dubb, Sol Kumin, The Elkstone Group, and Bethlehem Stables are also behind Aunt Pearl—along with Peter Deutsch and Mike Kisber. In part because of their confidence in Cox, they sent Liz Crow and Brad Weisbord overseas where they found the Irish-bred standout.

And then there is Godolphin Racing with its homebred Essential Quality. It doesn’t get bigger than Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed’s well-publicized pursuit of the Kentucky Derby (G1). Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin in America, said Essential Quality is the latest tribute to Sheikh Mohammed’s global breeding program.

Godolphin also has entrusted Cox with its latest star, along with hopes for next spring.

“There’s nothing more exciting than a 2-year-old that looks like he might go a little farther, going to two turns,” Bell said. “And really, a tip of the hat to Brad and his team and Brad in particular.”

And all of this started with a filly—the champion 3-year-old filly of 2018. Stuart Grant (The Elkstone Group), a co-owner of Monomoy Girl, noted both the heights to which she’s taken her team and the opportunities she’s created for all of the connections.

And as people saw what Cox could do with a talented runner such as Monomoy Girl, he’s added other top owners. Current owners are trying new approaches in the search for star horses. The trainer rewarded all in spectacular fashion this year.

As for the filly who helped get all of this started? For all of the memorable victories, perhaps the weekend’s best news for Cox came Sunday evening when Spendthrift Farm purchased Monomoy Girl for $9.5 million at The November Sale at Fasig-
Tipton Kentucky and promptly announced she would stay in training with Cox.

While Monomoy Girl has put Cox in position to move forward, they’re not parting ways just yet.

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