Sunday offered contrasting news on two prominent classic contenders: while Mr. Monomoy was knocked off the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail with a setback, Maxfield continues to progress toward a comeback.
Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, and Doheny Racing Stables’ Mr. Monomoy, winner of the faster division of the Risen Star (G2) Feb. 15 at Fair Grounds, has injured an ankle. As reported by Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh, the Brad Cox trainee was found to have heat in the ankle following a gallop, and X-rays pointed to a prescription of 60 days’ rest.
“It’s bad timing, but luckily we caught this before it became anything serious,” bloodstock agent/racing manager Liz Crow told Hersh.
Mr. Monomoy will vacation at WinStar Farm. A Palace Malice half-brother to champion (and stablemate) Monomoy Girl, he was the pro tem leader in Derby points (52) until Ete Indien increased his total to 54 in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (G2).
Monomoy Girl, who has not raced since her 2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) victory, just got back on the worktab at Fair Grounds Friday. The daughter of Tapizar toured 3 furlongs in :37.60, her first recorded move since Sept. 7.
“She was solid,” Cox told track publicity. “Obviously no races picked out yet or that we are pointing to. It’s our third attempt to get her back racing again. It’s a mountain to climb and we can climb it, we just need to take our time and take it day by day.”
A return to action by Monomoy Girl would be a bright spot after a tough few weeks for the Cox barn. Star filly Taraz broke down in a work and could not be saved; dual Eclipse Award winner Covfefe was abruptly retired; and now the sidelining of a major Derby hopeful in Mr. Monomoy.
But fans could cheer encouraging news on another high-profile sophomore, Maxfield, who fired a bullet work on the comeback trail at Palm Meadows. The unbeaten Breeders’ Futurity (G1) hero got his setback out of the way last fall, when scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and undergoing surgery to remove an ankle chip.
Rejoining trainer Brendan Walsh, Maxfield posted a pair of easy breezes – 3 furlongs in :38.20 Feb. 17 and a half in :51.20 Feb. 24 – and ratcheted up the tempo Sunday with a bullet half in :48.45. The Godolphin homebred tied for the fastest of 41 works at the distance (filly Turtle Trax was the other).
“He worked really well,” Walsh told Gulfstream Park publicity. “He worked a half in :49 and went out five-eighths and three-quarters and went out good, so he’s starting to step up a little bit now. The next work or two we’ll have a good idea of where we’re going to go with him, but he’s doing good.”
Walsh also commented on the pressing question: can Maxfield still make the Kentucky Derby? Or is it more realistic for him to build up more gradually to a later jewel of the Triple Crown?
“We have to see with him because it’ll be a question of, do we take a shot at one of the Derby trials if he’s doing real good or just try to find something a little softer for him off the layoff?
“That’s just the way it is. We’re still not quite decided on it and it’s going to be him that makes the decision for us, really. But, I wouldn’t rule anything in or out.
“I don’t know if we’d throw him to the wolves off the layoff in something like the Florida Derby (G1). That’s probably unlikely, but I’m saying that like there’s any really softer spots. When you get that close to the (Kentucky) Derby, everybody’s trying to go at it so no matter where you go you’re going to come up against some good ones. We’re kind of watching what’s going on with everybody else, too.”
The March 28 Florida Derby is shaping up tough indeed, with Tiz the Law, Ete Indien, and Independence Hall all pointing to the Gulfstream feature.
“The other thing,” Walsh said, “would be to come back maybe somewhere around Keeneland and run him in the Preakness (G1). That might be the other option.”
Whatever the eventual plan, Walsh reiterated that Maxfield has a big future.
“It doesn’t matter where he comes back, he’s going to be a good horse this year. It’s just a question about what the timing allows us to do. We’d all love to win the Derby, but on the same point I’m not going to sacrifice a horse like him just for it.”