Kentucky Oaks rematch on tap for Coaching Club American Oaks

Jul 21, 2018 Jennifer Caldwell/

The Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 4 at Churchill Downs featured a dramatic stretch battle between MONOMOY GIRL and Wonder Gadot, with MIDNIGHT BISOU, ESKIMO KISSES and CHOCOLATE MARTINI filling out the top five.

On Sunday, the 102nd running of the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) brings together four of those runners to go 1 1/8 miles over Saratoga’s fast main track.

Wonder Gadot is the only one of the group not appearing, as that Canadian-bred lass is set to go in Tuesday’s Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, after capturing the first jewel, the Queen’s Plate, by 4 3/4 lengths against the boys on June 30.

That leaves Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl to square off once again with Midnight Bisou, Eskimo Kisses and Chocolate Martini. The sophomore filly has suffered just one loss in her career, missing by only a neck last year in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) under the Twin Spires, but she has been unbeatable in four starts thus far this season.

Trained by Brad Cox, the Tapizar miss prevailed by a half-length in the Kentucky Oaks. She followed up by cutting back to a mile and recording a two-length victory in the Acorn Stakes (G1) on the June 9 Belmont Stakes undercard. Florent Geroux has been aboard for all but Monomoy Girl’s career debut and has the call Sunday.

“She’s been over on the (Saratoga) main track and handled it really well and stood in the gate (Thursday) morning, so I’m super pleased with how she looks and how she’s handled things so far,” Cox said. “She’s a laid back filly, she doesn’t get too worked up.

“She maintains her weight, her look, her coat, she’s so consistent with her works each week. She lets you know she’s ready. She’s on her game and hopefully she brings her ‘A’ game. That should be good enough.

“A lot of fillies she ran against in the Oaks have come back to win huge races, so it’s a good three-year-old filly crop that’s very strong,” Cox added. “She’s one of the top in the class and at the end of the year we’ll see if we can win an Eclipse (Award), that’s our goal.”

Midnight Bisou will try to stop Monomoy Girl’s march to championship honors in the CCA Oaks. Initially trained by Bill Spawr, who saddled her to a trio of wins in the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2), Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) and Santa Anita Oaks (G1), the dark bay lass was transferred to Steve Asmussen after finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks as the 2-1 favorite.

The Midnight Lute filly proceeded to romp by six lengths in the Mother Goose Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park on June 30 for her new barn, and retains the services of Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith here.

'She exudes confidence and I think that's continued and we expect her to do well,' Asmussen said. 'She's well aware of who she is. The way she carries herself; everything about her is class.'

Eskimo Kisses was sent off at 15-1 in the Kentucky Oaks, but rallied well despite being forced to steady in the lane to grab fourth, just a half-length behind Midnight Bisou. The Kenny McPeek pupil is still seeking her first stakes win in this spot, but has been knocking on the door since just missing by a head while making her stakes bow in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in late March. Javier Castellano takes the mount for the first time on the To Honor and Serve filly.

Chocolate Martini captured the Fair Grounds Oaks at 13-1 before running fifth in the Kentucky Oaks by 15-1 for trainer Tom Amoss. She reappeared last out to be third in the Summertime Oaks (G2) at Santa Anita Park, and has criss-crossed the country yet again to show up at Saratoga for the CCA Oaks. Irad Ortiz Jr. will be holding the reins for the first time on Sunday.

The only filly in the CCA Oaks who didn’t run in the Kentucky Oaks is GIO GAME. That Mark Casse-trained daughter of Gio Ponti has two stakes runs under her girth, finishing ninth last year in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and third most recently in the Acorn. She gets regular rider Julien Leparoux in the irons as she takes on this exceptional field.

“I was hoping they would be three horses in so we can hit the board,” Casse said with a laugh. “She’s doing great, but it’s a tough, tough race. I think she’ll like it here in Saratoga.

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