SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The only duel that materialized out of the Coaching Club American Oaks is what to do with Monomoy Girl next.
The Grade I race for 3-year-old fillies, one of the most important stakes on the loaded Saratoga Race Course calendar, was supposed to be the big Kentucky Oaks rematch between her and Midnight Bisou, but Monomoy Girl had it all her own way under Florent Geroux on Sunday.
And the rest of the 3-year-old filly division can pretty much kiss the Eclipse Award goodbye, too.
So much for the duel ... Monomoy Girl cruises pic.twitter.com/t8ezup79Mf— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) July 22, 2018
The hard part for Monomoy Girl's connections now -- a wonderful problem to have -- is which race to use as a springboard for the Breeders' Cup Distaff in November.
The top contenders for that honor are the Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 18 or the Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 22.
But all that's for later.
Until the CCA Oaks field got to the quarter pole, Monomoy Girl set the pace through nearly identical quarter-mile fractions.
Midnight Bisou, ridden by Mike Smith, appeared to be in striking position in third on the outside, with Chocolate Martini between her and Monomoy Girl in the three-horse formation.
Monomoy Girl made her move, and Geroux got to the wire under a hand ride as Midnight Bisou never threatened in second, three lengths back.
"I was very confident coming into this race, and she didn't let us down," trainer Brad Cox said. "She's fit, and as long as nothing happened, I figured she would get there."
"I thought I had the best horse coming into the race, and I rode her like she was," Geroux said. "Take no prisoners. Just take it to them right away and keep on going."
Well, in typical fashion for this filly, she didn't keep on going, at least not full blast once she got a comfortable lead.
At least she got to the eighth pole before looking around for other horses this time, Geroux said.
"Sometimes, she'll put on the brakes by the three-eighths pole and stuff, looking around and slowing herself down. Today, she stayed a little longer, and at the end, she was really waiting on company. That's why the margin is never going to be 15 lengths, but I had plenty in the tank."
"We didn't really go that fast early, and I said, 'Dang it,'" Smith said. "I wasn't really in a situation to do anything about it. I took her down the backside and tried to push the pace just a little bit to make sure at least it was honest enough, and I thought it was.
"Today, she just got the best of us. We've got to figure out how to turn the tables."
Good luck with that.
Midnight Bisou had some traffic trouble when she finished third to Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks, but she had no such excuse in the rematch on Sunday.
Kind of a light crowd today (especially for a hat giveaway), but nice round of applause for Monomoy Girl pic.twitter.com/BcNUQeLbDl— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) July 22, 2018
Cox has wondered whether Monomoy Girl is equipped to stretch out and thrive at the mile-and-a-quarter distance of the Alabama (like the CCA Oaks, the Cotillion and BC Distaff are a mile and an eighth), but that prospect looks better after the CCA Oaks.
The most likely scenario is that Monomoy Girl would get just one more start before the Breeders' Cup.
"The Alabama is certainly a possibility," he said. "If today's race was a mile and a quarter, I would have been confident with her coming in going another eighth of a mile.
"She's here, it would be nice to run her out of her own stall, but she's capable shipping, which she's done many times. We'll just let her determine where we are. She's not regressing, she gets bigger, stronger, shinier every race."