Brad Cox knows the rules of engagement, which doesn’t make Concert Tour’s last-place finish in last weekend’s Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn Park any easier to digest.

Concert Tour-Frustration
Concert Tour is seeking a return to the form he showed last spring at Santa Anita Park. He finished last in his first race in eight months. (Image: Zoe Metz)

Losing by 15 lengths as the 3/2 favorite in the nine-horse Fifth Season field does, however, come with reinforced lessons. One of which being, Concert Tour needs the lead. Period.

The 4-year-old Street Sense colt owns three career victories, all for former conditioner Bob Baffert. Two of those scores came when Concert Tour led at every call and included his best victory to date at last March’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park — his first trip around two turns.

The next time out, in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, Concert Tour couldn’t take the early lead. He finished third, behind Super Stock and eventual Cox stablemate, Caddo River.

Cox sees Concert Tour’s one-dimensional form up close

Things went further south in his next race, the Preakness Stakes. Concert Tour ran just off the early pace before fading badly to ninth — 34 1/2 lengths behind Rombauer.

Cox, who inherited Concert Tour from Baffert after the Preakness, clearly understands the colt’s one-dimensional form. It’s break fast and hard or fade fast and hard. The Fifth Season was his first race for Cox and his first race without blinkers.

“I think he’s one of those horses, California, he broke, he’s on the lead and he won,” Cox told Oaklawn’s Robert Yates on Sunday. “He came here, he broke good, he’s on the lead and he won. I think he’s probably a need-the-lead horse. He probably couldn’t have got the lead yesterday, I don’t really think, with that Mucho in the race. But at the three-eighths pole, he was kind of packing it in.”

Fortunately, Cox has distractions

Cox did say that Concert Tour came out of his first race in eight months in good shape.

“Obviously, there’s some frustration, but that’s part of it,” he said.

When you have a barn as deep and talented as Cox’s, frustration doesn’t last long. Helping to ease some of that are two other older routers, the aforementioned Caddo River and Plainsman. Cox entered Caddo River in a 1 1/16-mile Saturday allowance at Oaklawn, a tick over a month after he crossed the finish line first in his comeback race on Dec. 19. He was disqualified for interference in deep stretch and placed second in the one-mile allowance.

A multiple Grade 3 winner, Plainsman will likely make his 2022 debut in the Feb. 12 Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn. He comes into that race off a third in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Dec. 4