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.

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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.


Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.