It has been said before but let it be said again: The lady is a champ.
Though there was no dirt to dish with the other girls on this day, Monomoy Girl checked another box on a near-perfect scoresheet Sunday. With a powerful bit of racing down the stretch, the Tapizar mare notched her 14th victory in 16 career races by two lengths in the Grade 3 $250,000 Bayakoa.
Off since November at Keeneland, where she sold for $9.5 million one day after a second Breeders' Cup victory, Monomoy Girl remembered her lines and gave, what track announcer Vic Stauffer called correctly, "yet another display of excellence."
In her first Oaklawn appearance, and in near-darkness, the two-time champion scored on the track that another 6-year-old superstar, Zenyatta, won the Apple Blossom Handicap for a second time in 2010. Monomoy Girl, too, may wind up in racing's Hall of Fame.
Come November at Del Mar, Monomoy Girl may bid to become the first three-time Breeders' Cup Distaff winner. In the meantime, a second Apple Blossom victory on April 17 appears next up after a freshening in New Orleans.
"We've talked to Spendthrift Farm (majority owner) and that seems to be their spring goal," an obviously relieved trainer Brad Cox said. "Very, very pleased what she was able to accomplish and bringing her to Hot Springs means a lot. It's a great racing town ... There were a lot of fans here and I think they appreciate our team bringing her here.
Cox won the last three races Sunday, including the $150,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders' with The Mary Rose, and saw both of his 2020 Eclipse Award winners triumph over the weekend. Making his 3-year-old debut Saturday, Essential Quality stayed on course for the May 1 Kentucky Derby with a 4 1/4-length romp in the Grade 3 $750,000 Southwest. Unless a weather change steers him to Florida, the unbeaten Tapit colt will carry the Godolphin LLC banner next, Cox says, in the $800,000 Grade 2 Blue Grass April 3 at Keeneland or the Grade 1 $1 million Arkansas Derby April 10 at Oaklawn.
Breaking from outside post 6, Monomoy Girl raced well off the rail down the backstretch over a wet, sealed surface. Finite, a multiple graded winner for Steve Asmussen, and Our Super Freak, last-out runner-up in Oaklawn's Pippin for Cherie DeVaux, dulled the pace as much as possible, Finite getting the half in 49.41 seconds. Our Super Freak took them six furlongs in 1:14.13.
Placed out of trouble, never more than two lengths behind, Monomoy Girl felt the gears turn shortly after turning for home. When Florent Geroux asked for more, together they sailed to the champion's sixth-straight victory and 12th consecutive that she crossed the finish line first (counting a 2019 Grade 1 disqualification).
It mattered not that Monomoy Girl, clocked in 1:45.92, won the slowest Bayakoa since 2016. Just winning again, this time in all kinds of weather, made that all but irrelevant.
"I'm the luckiest jockey in the world right now," Geroux said. Interviewed by FSN1, he added, "The trick with her is not trying to make the lead too soon. But she's so good she's kind of like going over those horses pretty easily. The most part is trying to keep her busy to the gate."
In the last moments of wagering, Monomoy Girl climbed to 1-5, paying $2.40 to win. Our Super Freak was second at 11-1 and Finite, the 7-2 second choice, came in third.
"I think just given the post and the way they broke and laid going into the first turn, it set up well for her," Cox said. "She always kind of gets that little wide trip. Nothing really out of the ordinary."
"When I asked her turning for home, she gave me what she has all the time," Geroux said. "She always delivers so it's easy to appreciate a champion."
With $150,000 for the Bayakoa, Monomoy Girl boosted her career bankroll to more than $4.5 million. Along with Spendthrift, original owner Sol Kumin and Myracehorse.com race the winner.
"She is the definition of greatness," bloodstock agent Liz Crow said on Twitter, "and we should all be thankful to (the owners) for allowing us to enjoy her another year."
Dixie Belle: That was more than a love tap jockey Joe Talamo gave Windmill down the stretch in the sixth race.
Feeling a left-handed whip in midstretch, the Street Sense filly was reminded to get home quickly and out of the rain. Talamo got the expected response from the unbeaten 3-year-old, who in her second start prevailed by one length in the $150,000 Dixie Belle.
Luis Quinonez rode Windmill in her Jan. 23 debut while Talamo was under coronavirus protocols. But she was in familiar hands with Talamo, who got a cheerful send-off from trainer Larry Jones. They got home wet but happy after a sloppy six furlongs in 1:11.14.
"Larry told me to get on her back and have fun," Talamo said. "I rode her before she ever ran and felt that she would settle behind horses and finish well. I was very impressed with her."
A slight second choice in the betting, Windmill paid $6, $4 and $2.40. Goin Good broke poorly but hustled to the lead in the opening quarter and stayed up for second. Favored Abrogate, who like the winner came out of the September 2019 Keeneland sale, placed third.
Those three turned for home together, Talamo using Windmill's outside post position to advantage. A wire-to-wire leader last time, the bay filly furthered her education by sitting off the pace.
A $330,000 purchase, she is tracking the steps of former Fox Hill Farm distaffers Eight Belles (trained by Jones) and Songbird. The retired Wilmington, Del., automobile dealer also raced Hard Spun and Oaklawn stakes winners Old Fashioned, both trained by Jones, and 2019 Arkansas Derby-Rebel hero Omaha Beach (Richard Mandella).
Unable to train the filly during a recent winter siege, Jones said, "She can overcoming bad training. She's really nice. Kind of reminds me when I had some good horses. She's special.
"I was afraid when the race was scheduled three weeks ago, she would bounce off that big race before. I think it (delay) actually played into our favor."
Downthedustyroad Breeders': Locally owned The Mary Rose won for the second time at the meeting in the $150,000 race for Arkansas-bred females. With Martin Garcia up, she finished a half-length ahead of Matapan and two lengths clear of show horse Miss Antioch, another last-out Oaklawn winner.
The Mary Rose finished second to stablemate Sekani in last year's Rainbow Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies. Sekani placed fifth and another former stablemate, Dutch Treat, seventh in the Downthedustyroad, named for an Arkansas-bred 3-year-old Grade 1 winner.
Seventh early, The Mary Rose ($9) made her winning move from outside late, stopping the clock after six furlongs in 1:12.28. A Jan. 31 track winner, she collected $90,000 Sunday for Hot Springs breeder John Ed Anthony's Shortleaf Stable Inc. The Mary Rose is by Macho Uno out of the winless Tiznow mare Wood Rose.