The Risen Star (G2) was split into two divisions at Fair Grounds on Saturday, but there was one winning formula in both: speed on the rail. In the first division, the 7-1 Mr. Monomoy was able to clear the field from post 9 and held sway thereafter, and in the second division, the rail-drawn Modernist vied early before driving to a 12-1 upset. Each took home 50 Kentucky Derby (G1) points to zoom to the top two spots on the leaderboard.
Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, and Doheny Racing Stables’ Mr. Monomoy, a half-brother to 2018 champion 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl, was coming off a third in the Jan. 18 Lecomte (G3). Trained like Monomoy Girl by Brad Cox, and having some ownership in common, Mr. Monomoy had been stalking the pace of late. But he’d broken his maiden in front-running style Nov. 16 at Churchill Downs.
Regular rider Florent Geroux reverted to those tactics once Mr. Monomoy broke alertly in the first division, and he had no difficulty in outfooting Ready to Roll to the lead and the rail. Blackberry Wine attended the pace and drew alongside to challenge on the far turn, but Mr. Monomoy repelled him swinging into the stretch and kicked away by 2 1/2 lengths. In so doing, he gained revenge on the top two from the Lecomte, Enforceable and Silver State, who placed second and third here.
Finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.43 – faster than Modernist’s 1:51.28 in the second division – Mr. Monomoy earned his first stakes victory. The son of Palace Malice has a total of 52 Derby points, including his 2 from the Lecomte, that now make him the points leader.
“We had a really good start out of the gate,” Geroux told track publicity. “I was thinking about stalking, but when I saw no one was really going for the lead I took advantage of it and went for it. It worked really nicely for me. It was a good distance and there was no real competition up front. Last time he did have a bad trip, but it was partly the break. He’s still a new horse and learning everything but he showed me a lot today, I’m really happy with him.”
“He galloped out well last time,” Cox said, “and I thought he could get this distance. I thought the draw today 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.”
Enforceable didn’t have quite the same pace set-up as in the Lecomte, so his rally from far back to snatch second was commendable. Adding 20 points to his prior 13, Enforceable has 33 in all. Silver State, just a half-length back in third as the slight 3-1 favorite, deposited 10 more points to bring up his total to 14.
Farmington Road, who was both wide throughout and near the rear, gained momentum late to finish fourth and grab 5 points in his stakes debut. Next came Digital, Scabbard, Blackberry Wine, Moon over Miami, Ready to Roll, Perfect Revenge, and the tailed-off Shashashakemeup.
While the first division was a rearranging of the Lecomte top three, the second Risen Star division was dominated by sophomores in their initial Derby points race. That result was unexpected as the established class of the field, even-money favorite Anneau d’Or, retreated to ninth.
Mr. and Mrs. Martin J. Wygod’s homebred Modernist, who just wired an Aqueduct maiden for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, had more pace competition here. Ny Traffic hustled to get to the front from post 12, but Modernist had the tactical speed to hold his spot on the rail, and the two matched strides in the early going.
Down the stretch, however, Modernist edged clear from Ny Traffic. Mailman Money loomed wider out before stalling, leaving Major Fed to emerge as the major threat. His steady gain wasn’t enough to peg back Modernist, who had a length to spare at the wire with regular pilot Junior Alvarado.
Major Fed took home 20 points in an encouraging stakes debut. Ny Traffic received 10 points for hanging tough in third, and Mailman Money bagged 5 points in fourth. Mr. Big News, Lynn’s Map, Finnick the Fierce, Excession, Anneau d’Or, Liam’s Lucky Charm, and Fame to Famous rounded out the order of finish.
Modernist’s 50 Derby points put him second on the leaderboard. Like Mr. Monomoy, he has famous relatives. By champion Uncle Mo, he’s out of a half-sister to two Breeders’ Cup winners – 2004 Juvenile Fillies (G1) champion Sweet Catomine and 2009 Ladies’ Classic (G1) heroine Life Is Sweet.
“I took advantage of being drawn on the rail,” Alvarado said, alluding to Mott’s instructions. “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 racehorse but he has so much talent and I’m really proud of him.”
“He won at a mile and an eighth in New York and has progressed really well in this early part of his 3-year-old year,” Mott said. “He’s become more mature and has been more professional about everything. I couldn’t be more delighted with how he acted in the paddock and post parade.”
Mott’s 2019 Kentucky Derby winner via disqualification, Country House, was just retired, but the horseman hopes that Modernist can pick up the baton.
“I think the plan is going to the Louisiana Derby ([G2] on March 21). He is very similar to Country House and I want to follow the same path as I did. This horse is a little more mature than Country House was at this point last year, so it’s exciting.”