Filly Monomoy Girl edges Wonder Gadot for Kentucky Oaks win

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — After five relatively easy victories, Monomoy Girl proved she could also handle challenges in the Kentucky Oaks.

The filly proved that by first overcoming an outside post start before gutting out a close win to maintain her hot start.

Monomoy Girl took charge near the far turn and outdueled Wonder Gadot down the stretch to win the $1 million Kentucky Oaks by a half-length on Friday at Churchill Downs.

Kentucky Derby: What Time, Where to Watch, Horses, Post Times

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 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.

Monomoy Girl entered the Oaks with five wins in six starts by a combined margin of 20 1/2 lengths. Her latest triumph was much tighter, all of which made the Grade 1 victory more satisfying for her connections.

“It’s great, you know,” jockey Florent Geroux said. “She was in a war, she had only one try.

“This filly has been very special for us, known for a long time. We’ve been pointing for this race since November, to get here in good shape in winning, she was just outstanding.”

Wonder Gadot’s jockey, John Velazquez, filed a foul claim against Monomoy Girl for a bump down the stretch. Stewards dismissed it, giving Brad Cox a signature hometown win in the 144th running of the Oaks.

Monomoy Girl covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.13 and paid $7.20, $4.60 and $3.60.

Wonder Gadot returned $14 and $7.20. Midnight Bisou paid $3.20 to show while having her three-race winning streak snapped.

The race’s biggest surprise was that Wonder Gadot, listed at 20-1 on the morning line, gave Monomoy Girl her biggest challenge instead of Midnight Bisou. The California-based filly came in with three wins by 10 1/4 combined lengths, fueling expectations of a two-horse race.

Midnight Bisou came on late, but behind two other fillies that battled hard on the dirt.

Monomoy Girl’s main question was how she would handle an outside post and 19 other horses fighting for position. Cox, who grew up blocks from Churchill Downs, wasn’t fazed. He believed his horse had the speed to get into contention along with the patience to navigate traffic.

Monomoy Girl ultimately had no trouble running outside before gaining position near the rail and holding on. A brief wait followed before stewards upheld the finish that sparked a cheer from the jockey, trainers and its owners.

Velazquez still felt justified in claiming foul.

“At least I have to take a chance on it,” he said. “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.”

Monomoy Girl’s Oaks win came hours after last year’s winner, Abel Tasman, was beaten in her return to Churchill Downs as a 4-year-old.

The filly finished fourth among six horses in the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes, in which Salty beat Farrell by a head.

Last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming also had a tough day. The colt favored in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes battled eventual winner Backyard Heaven through the final turn but faded to fifth.

 

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Arabian Knight earns Baffert record 6th win in Southwest

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth victory in the race.

The colt came into the Kentucky Derby prep as one of the most highly touted 3-year-olds in the country. Arabian Knight, who was purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, was making his second career start and first on a sloppy track in front of 27,000 fans in Arkansas.

“These good horses are hard to come by,” said Baffert, who was on hand in Hot Springs. “We’ve had a lot of luck here at Oaklawn, so it was nice to have a horse like this.”

However, Arabian Knight was ineligible to earn the Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner because Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The penalty, which ends shortly after this year’s Derby on May 6, stems from Medina Spirit’s medication violation after the colt won the 2021 Derby and was later disqualified. Baffert is challenging the ban in court.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Arabian Knight ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80 to win. He is 2-0 and has career earnings of $544,275.

“He ran 1:43 and change, that’s racehorse time and he did it without taking a deep breath,” Baffert said. “This was a big effort.”

Red Route One closed from last to finish second, and Frosted Departure was third. Sun Thunder was fourth, followed by Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate and Western Ghent.

At Gulfstream in Florida, Baffert’s entry Defunded finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths by Art Collector on Saturday.