By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Brad Cox, who set the Breeders’ Cup alight in 2020 with four winners at Keeneland, is looking to Royal Ascot this year for a possible Coronation Stakes bid with star filly Aunt Pearl.
The brilliant daughter of Lope De Vega went unbeaten in three starts last term, culminating in a hugely impressive success in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, where she made all to win unchallenged from the Aidan O’Brien-trained Mother Earth.
Aunt Pearl was bought for 280,000gns out of Tattersalls Book 1 at the October Sale in 2019 – and Cox indicated that she may be returning to Europe via the same path as her Breeders’ Cup-winning predecessor Sharing, who ran a fine second to Alpine Star in the Coronation Stakes after winning the Tepin Stakes on turf at Churchill Downs in May.
“She was given some time and there aren’t a lot of options with the three-year-old fillies on the grass early in the year,” Cox said, speaking to the media team at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where he has a powerful barn for the winter months.
“One of our goals is possibly Ascot and maybe the Churchill race this summer to start her back.”
Cox, second only to the 400-plus win stable of Steve Asmussen in prize-money terms in 2020, certainly has plenty of ambition.
“When I started this, I had dreams of winning an Eclipse,” he said. “There are three things that I said I would like to do in this industry, and that’s win an Eclipse Award, do enough to earn a trip to the Hall of Fame, and win the Kentucky Derby. And I’ve yet to do any of them!”
In the meantime, the trainer outlined plans for several of his more high-profile horses, among them superstar mare Monomoy Girl and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Essential Quality, who is prominent in ante-post betting for the Kentucky Derby.
9½-length maiden winner at Churchill in November
Brad Cox says: “He’s doing really well and we’re going to shoot for the Smarty Jones (Oaklawn, Jan 22).”
Godolphin’s homebred Kentucky Oaks hope runs in $150,000 Silverbulletday (Fair Ground, Jan 16)
“Divine Comedy is doing well and came out of her race in good shape. She had an easy maintenance half, her first work back, and we’re excited to run her.”
Godolphin homebred vying for Kentucky Derby favouritism with Bob Baffert-trained Life Is Good
“He’s a good colt and his work this weekend (4 furlongs in 48.80 January 3 at Fair Grounds) – just ‘wow,’ just phenomenal. We didn’t give him time off but we backed off on him and he seems to have responded well. He was really good this past weekend and we just need to keep him that way until the middle of February.
“The Risen Star (Fair Grounds, Feb 13) is on the table, as is the Southwest (Oaklawn, Feb 13). The one thing about the Fair Grounds race is it’s a lot more points, so that makes it a little more attractive. But the distance is the question; do we want to go a mile and an eighth off not having a race in three months?
“We’ll talk it over with the Godolphin team and make a decision probably about the 1st of February. If he goes to the Southwest, I’m 99% sure that he would go back to Fair Grounds, and the Louisiana Derby would be in play after that.”
Stunning Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner, unbeaten since joining Cox
“We’re thinking about the Louisiana but we’re pretty sure we’ll end up going in the Pegasus (Gulfstream Park, Jan 23). I told the owners I could go either way, and they thought maybe we’ll wait one more week and give it a shot there and see how it goes.
“Then we could maybe look at the Saudi race (Feb 20) as well. We’ll get the first one out of the way and then go from there. I don’t think further distances will be an issue for him at all. He’s doing well, he’s a Grade 1 race horse, and that work (at Fair Grounds, Jan 2), three-quarters in 1m13.00s, that’s fantastic and is moving on that racetrack.”
Juddmonte son of Into Mischief set to run in G3 Lecomte (Fair Grounds, Jan 16) as first step on road to Kentucky Derby
“He’s pretty good and I’m excited about him getting around two turns. He’s been very good in his first two but I think he’s a two-turn horse and we’re going to see what he’s cut out to do. Knock on wood he’ll have one more work this weekend and I’m excited about running him on the 16th.”
Sure thing for Eclipse Award after second win in Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November; then surprise decision to keep her in training as six-year-old
“The Bayakoa on February 15 (Oaklawn) is the plan right now for her. She seems to have picked up where she left off last year. Her work this weekend (4 furlongs in 48.80 January 3 at Fair Grounds) was really, really good and I feel like we’re ahead of schedule as far as where we need to be with her. We never took her out of training, so it’s not like she lost a bunch of fitness, but her work was really, really good.”
Easy maiden winner at Fair Grounds last month for Juddmonte
“I think his next start will be around one turn. I’m not saying we wouldn’t eventually try two turns, but for the time being we’ll keep him around one turn. I don’t have anything picked out for him right now and I want to give him plenty of time to recover from his first race. Since he’s been at Fair Grounds he’s settled in really well and is moving forward mentally.”
Ended two-year-old campaign with eyecatching win in G2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs
“She’s really good and she’s doing really well right now. Her work the other day (4f in 50s at Fair Grounds) was a little slow but it was more because her workmate broke off a little slow but the rider on her did exactly what he was instructed to do and she’ll pick it up and start going a little quicker and further in the future and right now we are pointing for the Rachel Alexandra ((Fair Grounds, Feb 13.”