Over the last decade, horse racing fans have been blessed to witness some of the greatest fillies and mares to have ever graced the racetrack: Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Songbird, Beholder, Black Caviar, Goldikova, and Winx, just to name a few. It has truly been a golden age of great female race horses across the globe.
This Saturday under the fabled twin spires of Churchill Downs, one special filly will be looking to add to her already stellar career and stamp her place in history with a Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) victory.
The Brad Cox trainee, Monomoy Girl, has been nothing short of spectacular in her sophomore season. She’s crossed the wire first in all six of her starts. She scored a two and a half-length victory in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds. She was dominant in a five and half-length score in the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland. She was all guts in a half-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs. She cruised to a two-length win in the Acorn (G1) at Belmont. She was superb in a three-length score in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga. In her last start, she finished a neck in front of Midnight Bisou in the Cotillion (G1) at Parx before being disqualified and placed second.
The Tapizar filly has only not crossed the wire first but once in her 10-race career. In the Cotillion, she drifted out several paths late, which affected Midnight Bisou, leading to her disqualification. Some believed it was a controversial decision considering Monomoy Girl never made contact with the Asmussen filly, but the replay showed that she definitely impeded her.
Monomoy Girl and jockey Florent Geroux will be looking for redemption on their home track this Saturday at Churchill Downs. Geroux fits the filly like a glove. He worked out a great trip when breaking from the far outside post in the Kentucky Oaks on this very track and at the same nine-furlong distance of the Distaff. She finds herself on the outside yet again breaking from post #11 and the Cox-Geroux team will be looking for a similar trip. Geroux will need to keep her focused in the late stages of the race, as she has a tendency to wander around like she did in the Cotillion.
She will have a definite pace advantage over her foes in the Distaff. This year’s edition lacks horses with natural early speed. Most of the top contenders prefer a closing style, which means that Monomoy Girl might possibly find herself alone on the front end. If Geroux can ration her speed and get moderate fractions early, she might be long gone when the likes of Midnight Bisou and the Bob Baffert-trained Abel Tasman come running.
Baffert also sends out Vale Dori in the Distaff, which looks to be the only other early speed to compete with Monomoy Girl through the early stages of the race. If Vale Dori is intent on making the lead, Geroux can choose the “stalk and pounce” tactic that he used in victory in the Kentucky Oaks.
Monomoy Girl’s biggest asset is her versatility. She’s proven she can win on the lead, stalking, or closing.
Monomoy Girl has been working forwardly in preparation for the Distaff. She’s crossed the wire first in every race against Midnight Bisou. The elder in the race, Abel Tasman, will also be a stern test for the Tapizar filly if she runs up to her potential.
I think the sneaky filly in this spot is Wonder Gadot. She loves the nine-furlong distance and she’s proven she likes Churchill Downs with her second place finish in the Kentucky Oaks to Monomoy Girl. She will also be more than generous odds.
With experts questioning Monomoy Girl’s soundness, and others saying she peaked earlier in the season, the filly who’s never finished worse than second has a lot to prove in the Distaff. One thing no one can ever question is her heart. She just loves winning. Wonder Gadot pressed her the length of the stretch in the Kentucky Oaks and Monomoy Girl refused to give in. In the Cotillion she did everything she could to make sure she finished a nose in front of Midnight Bisou on a day where she didn’t run her best.
If the Distaff comes down to a battle in the stretch, Monomoy Girl will keep fighting and keep reaching for the wire and, in return, might just stamp her spot alongside the all-time great fillies and mares.
Photo of Monomoy Girl courtesy of NYRA