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Kentucky Oaks Day: Great racing, disputed finish in feature (Monomoy Girl wins) and some perspecive


By Mark Hansel
KyForward managing editor

The 144th Grade I Kentucky Oaks was a thrilling renewal of the classic race that saw morning line favorite Monomoy Girl battle longshot Wonder Gadot the length of the stretch.

Eventual winner Monomoy Girl is barely visible inside Wonder Gadot (#5). The two fillies engaged in a hotly contested stretch duel in the 144th running of the Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs Friday (photo by Mark Hansel).

Monomoy Girl, with Florent Geroux up, edged away as the horses neared the wire and withstood a claim of foul by jockey John Velasquez to take the winner’s share of the $1 million purse.

The fillies appeared to bump as Monomoy Girl, on the rail, drifted out slightly, but the judges determine it did not impact the outcome of the race

Monomoy Girl broke from the outside post in the 14-horse filed, which many thought would be a difficult task to overcome in the one mile and one-eighth contest. Geroux, however, managed to secure a handy spot going into the first turn and stalked the leaders early.

“This is an unbelievable feeling,” Geroux said. “The filly was sharp early and I just hustled her out of the gate to get a good position.”

Geroux was content to sit in the three path, behind pacesetter Take Charge Paula and just outside of Sassy Sienna and Classy Act, before making his move heading into the far turn.

Geroux said he felt pretty comfortable at that point and appeared ready to open up on the field, but Monomoy Girl had other plans.

Winning Trainer Brad Cox (left) and jockey Florent Geroux discuss Monomoy Girl’s win in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs Friday

“When I hit the quarter pole, her ears were flopping back and forth and she tried putting the brakes on me until she saw Wonder Gadot,” Geroux said. “I can see she’s looking around too much. I was just hoping somebody was coming to me, but not that close.”

It appeared Velasquez and Wonder Gadot actually stuck a nose in front, which is when things really got tight.

“When the other filly got head to head, I gave her a few slaps to keep her interested, but she can be quirky,” Geroux said. “You can get after her too much and she stops. I kept hand riding her and she pulled away at the end.”

Geroux dismissed the bumping as incidental contact.

“I know we touched, but we are very close to each other,” Geroux said. “I hit my feet only twice. And I slightly, slightly came out. If there was a nose, maybe they would take a look at it a little bit longer, but, since my filly kind of drew away, I think it was pretty clear to the stewards.”

Velasquez had a slightly different take on the incident.

“We were battling head and head down the stretch. When they came out and knocked her sideways, she went back to the left lead,” Velasquez said. “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 got bumped.”

Ultimately, after a short delay, the stewards agreed with Geroux and Monomoy Girl was declared the winner.

The victory was a popular one among locals. Winning trainer Brad Cox grew up on Evelyn Avenue, just a few blocks from Churchill Downs.

Cox called the victory “the biggest of his career,” but admitted he got concerned when Monomoy Girl started looking around at about the 5/16 pole.

“Especially when Wonder Gadot was coming on the outside of her,” Cox said. “We know she’s a filly that doesn’t really like to be ridden aggressively, I guess, is the term. But Florent, obviously, had to get aggressive with her today.”

The winning owners were Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, LLC, The Elkstone Group, LLC and Bethlehem Stables, LLC.

Monomoy Girl went off as the second choice and paid $7.20 to win, $4.60 to place and $3.60 to show. Wonder Gadot, at odds of almost 17-1, paid $14 to place and $7.20 to show. Post-time favorite Midnight Bisou paid $3.20 to show.

The connection of Backyard Heaven, including owner Ken Ramsey, pose for a Winner’ Circle photo following the colt’s victory in the Grade II Alysheba at Churchill Downs Friday.

Oaks undercard

There was plenty of action in the stakes races leading up to the Longines Kentucky Oaks, beginning with the Grade II Eight Belles, also for 3yo fillies, contested at seven furlongs.

*Jockey Ricardo Santana aboard favored Mia Mischief had to battle foes throughout the contest to secure the 1 ¾ length victory for trainer Steve Asmussen and owners William and Corinne Heiligbrodt, Heider Family Stables, LLC and Madaket Stables, LLC.

*Abel Tasman, with lifetime earnings just shy of $2 million going into the race, was favored in the Grade I La Troienne for older fillies and mares, but could only manage a fourth-place finish coming off of a six-month layoff.

Salty, with Tyler Gaffalione on board, captured the 1 1/16 mile contest for trainer Mark Casse and owners Gary Barber, Baccari Racing Stable and Chester Prince.

*Klein Racing’s Will Call came out of the pack to take the Grade III Twin Spires Turf Sprint for 3yos and up. The four-year-old colt was ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and gave trainer Cox his first graded stakes win of the day in the five-furlong turf dash.

*The Grade II Alysheba was won by Backyard Heaven for Turfway Park perennial leading owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, in only the fourth start of the 4yo colt’s career. Backyard Heaven drew off under jockey Irad Ortiz to win by a widening four lengths in the 1 1/16 mile contest for trainer Chad Brown.

*Toinette took advantage of a tenacious stretch duel to run by previously undefeated Rushing Fall and Daddy is a Legend and capture the Grade III Edgewood. Toinette was 12-1 on the morning line but was bet down to 5-1 in capturing the 1 1/16 mile turf race for 3yo fillies for trainer Neil Drysdale and owners Ken Baca, Lisa and Nicholas Hawkins and Lynne and Joseph Hudson.

A white sportcoat with a special plea from a loving husband

Shaun McCarthy has been to 34 Kentucky Derby weekends, but this one could be the most memorable if he finds a kidney donor for his wife, Stacey. McCarthy put a message on the back of his suit, hoping one of the more than 100,000 people in attendance Friday would become the donor match his wife needs.

Even on one of racing’s biggest days, something as simple as a man in a white sportcoat can provide a big dose of perspective.

At a glance, Shaun McCarthy looked like a lot of other well-dressed patrons attending the Oaks Friday. It wasn’t until he turned around that he stood out from the crowd.

On the back of McCarthy’s jacket was this message, “My Wife Needs A Kidney. Blood Type O. For Info. Text 207-408-9464.”

McCarthy has been coming to Louisville from Portland, Maine, for the Oaks and Kentucky Derby for 34 years, but if the right person sees his message, this will undoubtedly be the most memorable.

“My wife, Stacey, is on dialysis right now and needs a transplant,” McCarthy said. “So far we haven’t had any luck. We’ve had a lot of people that have tried to be a donor and it’s a real rigorous program, but we haven’t found a match.”

There were a couple of people in the mix, McCarthy says, but those that have been a match so far, have had the wrong blood type.

“All we need is someone that has type O and it doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive,” McCarthy said. “There is a website people can go to for preliminary testing to find out if someone is a match. I did a thing on Facebook with a picture of my wife with our dog about three months ago and got 26,000 hits.”

Of those, 25 or 30 did the paperwork and two are still in the mix, but there is no definite match yet.

“It could be a friend of a friend…that reposts and reposts, so you just never know where the right donor might come from,” McCarthy said. “I just figured it was a good idea because there are more than 100,000 people here today, and it just takes one.”


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