April 16, 2024

A tribute to future Hall of Famer Monomoy Girl

Monomoy Girl
Monomoy Girl regains her crown in the 2020 Breeders' Cup Distaff (Coady Photography)

Upon the retirement of two-time champion Monomoy Girl, it didn’t take long for observers to mention her certainty of making the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.

Thursday’s Churchill Downs barn notes hailed Monomoy Girl as a “sure-fire future Hall of Famer,” and at the track, TwinSpires.com’s own Ed DeRosa commented on her compiling “undoubtedly a Racing Hall of Fame career.”

Just a glance at her scorecard of 14 wins in 17 career starts, with a bankroll exceeding $4.7 million, begins to tell the tale. Two of those losses were near-miss seconds, and in another, she was first across the wire but demoted for interference. Churchill’s Joe Kristufek makes that point while offering crucial context:

Indeed, Monomoy Girl is even more extraordinary considering the arc of her career: she reached the pinnacle as a three-year-old, only to be sidelined for a prolonged time, then return at the top of her game as an older mare to earn another Eclipse Award. To achieve championship-level consistency is outstanding in itself; to do so in two distinct periods of time, separated by an 18-month hiatus, is a feat of historic proportions.

“She matured a lot throughout her career,” trainer Brad Cox told Churchill publicity. “Going into the (2020) Breeders’ Cup, she trained with such a purpose each day. It was hard to imagine her works being better than when she was a three-year-old, but she was more aggressive in her training and really blossomed on the racetrack.”

Monomoy Girl’s collection of victories also puts her in rarefied air. She became just the third filly to turn the Kentucky Oaks (G1)/Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) double in 2018, after Hall of Famer Ashado (2004) and Untapable (2014).

Monomoy Girl was accordingly a near-unanimous choice for champion three-year-old filly, and she became a finalist for the Horse of the Year title won by Triple Crown sweeper Justify. Compiling a virtually flawless sophomore campaign, she racked up other major wins in the Ashland (G1), Acorn (G1), and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1). The one thing blotting her otherwise perfect season was the aforementioned disqualification in the Cotillion (G1). Familiar foe Midnight Bisou, who had yet to find a way to beat her on the track, was awarded the win.

With Monomoy Girl out of action in 2019, Midnight Bisou progressed to win seven in a row and take leadership of the division. Her skein was snapped when runner-up in that fall’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff to Blue Prize. Since Midnight Bisou and Blue Prize had been third and fourth, respectively, to Monomoy Girl the prior year, they were underscoring the caliber of her opposition.

During Monomoy Girl’s remarkable 2020 comeback, she did not have the pleasure of renewing rivalry with Midnight Bisou. But Monomoy Girl did roll in the Ruffian (G2) over Vexatious, who later stunned Midnight Bisou in the Personal Ensign (G1). The Ruffian is notable for another reason as well: around Belmont Park’s one-turn mile, Monomoy Girl notched her highest Brisnet Speed rating, a 111.

Monomoy Girl added the La Troienne (G1) back at Churchill, her stepping stone to regaining her title in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland. Her Breeders’ Cup crowned a perfect 4-for-4 campaign, clinched another championship, and made her a Horse of the Year finalist for the second time. Finishing behind her was yet another champion, Swiss Skydiver, who unfortunately stumbled out of the gate and wound up seventh.

By winning the Distaff in non-consecutive years, Monomoy Girl evoked memories of Beholder, herself a mortal lock for the Hall of Fame. Beholder’s Distaff wins came in 2013 and 2016. The only other two-time Distaff heroines, Bayakoa (1989-90) and Royal Delta (2011-12), are already enshrined in Saratoga Springs.

When Monomoy Girl toured the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky auction ring last November, chances were that her new owner would retire her to the broodmare life. But as soon as the late B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm purchased her for $9.5 million, the news came that she would stay in training.

Monomoy Girl picked up right where she left off in the Feb. 28 Bayakoa (G3) at Oaklawn Park. Officially that marked her sixth straight win. It was also the 12th time in a row that she crossed the wire first, a streak that began after her narrow loss in the 2017 Golden Rod (G2) as a juvenile.

The streak ended in the Apr. 17 Apple Blossom H. (G1), in what turned out to be her final start. Yet the hard-fought defeat adds another dimension to her legacy. For Monomoy Girl was trying to give six pounds to Letruska, who’s subsequently emerged as the division leader. Indeed, Letruska has now won four in a row – tacking on the Ogden Phipps (G1), Fleur de Lis (G2), and Personal Ensign – and is in pole position for the champion older dirt female title. The Apple Blossom would be a fitting passing of the baton.

Monomoy Girl had been shelved since, but appeared on course for another comeback, until sustaining an injury in a Tuesday gallop. Spendthrift announced her retirement Wednesday while disclosing her diagnosis – a non-displaced sesamoid fracture in her right front. The six-year-old will not need surgery, just ease into her new life at Spendthrift in the Bluegrass.

Connections have expressed what Monomoy Girl has meant to their lives.

Liz Crow first bought Monomoy Girl, as agent with BSW Bloodstock, for $100,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.

“She’s simply a remarkable mare and has meant the world to my career,” Cox said. “She’s given her owners a lot of joy throughout her career.”

“It took us a while to get her back last year. She’s rewarded us in such a big way. She owes us nothing and will always be special to us. She was our first (Kentucky) Oaks winner and Breeders’ Cup winner and a multiple champion.”

Regular rider Florent Geroux was aboard for all but her career debut:

Caton Bredar, whose husband, Doug, is Geroux’s agent, shared a special moment:

Monomoy Girl’s legion of fans can feel the same, even from afar.