Trainer Brad Cox has a Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and three Breeders’ Cup victories on his resume, and in 2019 he was a finalist for an Eclipse Award. Following Saturday’s victory in the first division of the Risen Star (G2) presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln with Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, and Doheny Racing’s Mr. Monomoy, it looks like a first ever Kentucky Derby (G1) presented by Woodford Reserve starter is in his immediate future.
Never before run at 1 1/8 miles, the Risen Star was split for the first time since the Kentucky Derby points system was implemented in 2013. Both divisions carried a $400,000 purse and offered 85 (50-20-10-5) Kentucky Derby points.
Leading his fellow three-year-olds through fractions of 24.22 and 48.57, Mr. Monomoy, a half-brother to the champion Monomoy Girl, disposed of Blackberry Wine at the top of the stretch, and then held off the late advances of both Lecomte (G3) winner Enforceable (20 Derby points) and runner-up Silver State (10 Derby points) to win by 2 1⁄2 lengths in a final time of 1:50.43 for 1 1/8 miles, which was nearly a second faster than division two winner Modernist (1:51.28). Farmington Road earned five Derby points for finishing fourth.
“We had a really good start out of the gate,” jockey Florent Geroux said of the son of Palace Malice. “I was thinking about stalking, but when I saw no one was really going for the lead I took advantage and went for it. It worked really nicely for me. He’s still learning but he showed me a lot today, I’m really happy with him.”
Following a third place run in Lecomte over 1 1/16 miles last month, Cox openly questioned his colt’s ability to run successfully over a distance of ground, but Mr. Monomoy flipped that narrative on Saturday.
“He galloped out well the last time (in the Lecomte) which helped me to think he could get this distance,” Cox said. “I thought the draw today (post nine) gave him the opportunity to break and clear if he wanted, and obviously he was willing to do it. Florent put him in a great spot and he stepped up to the plate today and proved that he belongs.”
With 52 total points, Mr. Monomoy now tops the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard. The Risen Star improves his record to 5-2-1-1 with earnings of $327,162.
“It will probably be one more race before the (Kentucky) Derby,” Cox continued. “What race that will be, we don’t know yet. We just have to see how he comes out of it, see what other horses run in the next few weeks, and see how everything unfolds. We’re really happy with him.”
Off a step slow and wide on both turns, Enforceable closed well to be second. He now has 33 Derby points, which in most years would earn him a spot in the 20-horse starting gate.
“He ran a great race,” jockey Julien Leparoux said. “There wasn’t really any pace and the winner was on an easy lead. My horse responded when I asked and put in a really good run down the lane. I’m happy with how he ran and look forward to having him go longer in distance.”
In the second division of the Risen Star, Pam and Martin Wygod’s Modernist pressed early fractions of 24.38 and 48.57 from the inside, took over at the top of the stretch, and then held off the late advances of Major Fed (20 Derby points) to win by 1 1⁄2 lengths in a final time of 1:51.28.
The pacesetting NY Traffic (ten Derby points) held on well for third, and Mailman Money (five Derby points) was fourth. Following a troubled run into the first turn, the even-money favorite Anneau d’Or finished ninth.
“I took advantage of being drawn on the rail,” Alvarado said of the son of Uncle Mo. “He put me in a good spot early on and when I asked for more, he gave it to me. I’ve always been high on him. I think he’s still learning how to be a race horse but he has so much talent and I’m really proud of him.”
One year ago, trainer Bill Mott watched his Country House finish second behind War of Will in the Risen Star, and that recently retired colt would later become the adjudicated winner of the Kentucky Derby.
“Interestingly, I pulled out Country House’s past performances and this horse’s past performances and they were similar," Mott said. "When they ran the first time, when they ran the second time, when the Risen Star was. I got to looking at it and I said, ‘boy, I could see a repeat here’.’”
Entering the race off a maiden win at Aqueduct last month in just his third start, Modernist now boasts a record of 4-2-0-1 with earnings of $288,800. The 50 Kentucky Derby points he earned places him second behind Mr. Monomoy on the current leaderboard.
The Fair Grounds contributed to this story.