Brad Cox couldn’t be more impressed with Monomoy Girl ahead of her bid to reclaim the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland on Saturday.
The 2018 Distaff winner is back for a second run at the race, where an expected duel with Preakness Stakes scorer Swiss Skydiver is forecast, according to the betting market.
The Tapizar mare won the 2018 Ashland at Keeneland to give Cox his first career Grade 1. That remains her only start at the famous Lexington circuit going into this weekend, but it’s not a matter of any pressing concern for Cox given she has completed more than her fair share of work at the track.
In that same 2018 season she’d win the Kentucky Oaks and the Longines Distaff at Churchill Downs, her first time clashing with older horses. That win ensured she was named the champion three-year-old filly of the year.
A mild bout of colic led to Monomoy Girl missing her four-year-old campaign but she has returned this season to win all three starts, most recently the Grade 1 La Troienne at Churchill Downs in September.
In the mind of her trainer, Monomoy Girl looks as well as ever in her work.
“She’s as good as she’s ever been, honestly,” said Cox. “It’s scary to see how well she’s moving, how happy she is and how fresh she is.
“She really likes Keeneland. She spent a lot of time here as a two-year-old and obviously won the Ashland here and prepared for the Ashland here.
“She was here for a few weeks before the race then. And, she spent a good time here this spring. Most of her works before getting back to races were here at Keeneland. She does love it here, there’s no doubt about it.”
Monomoy Girl had a routine gallop Wednesday with regular rider Fernando Espinoza on board, leaving her spot on for a keenly-anticipated showdown with Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver in the Distaff.
Kenn McPeek’s filly opted against going for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in favour of this perceived lesser assignment.
Robby Albarado was given the call-up to partner Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness last month at Pimlico and rewarded connections with victory in the Triple Crown race, repelling Kentucky Derby winner Authentic in the home stretch.
It was a big moment for the rider and he’s eager to make more headlines this weekend. Albarado has been working Swiss Skydiver in her morning exercise this week at Keeneland and feels she’s very much in tune with what awaits in the Distaff.
“She’s doing extremely well,” Albarado said. “I want to say she’s doing as good if not better than she was at Pimlico (Preakness week). She’s moving really well. She’s very confident. She’s so smart about everything. She knows where she’s at and what she has to do.”