Adding more prestige to Churchill Downs’ long-awaited Spring Meet opening on Saturday, champion 3-year-old Monomoy Girl returns to action for the first time in 18 months.

Monomoy Girl Returns
Monomoy Girl, seen here nipping Wonder Gadot to win the 2018 Kentucky Oaks, returns to racing for the first time in 18 months on Saturday. She makes her 5-year-old debut as a 4/5 favorite in an allowance race. (Image: Churchill Downs)

In terms of class and competition, Monomoy Girl won’t be running against the elite fields she’s used to competing against. She’s entered as the 4/5 favorite in an $85,000 one-mile allowance optional claiming race – quite the drop from where we last saw the Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old of 2018.

That would be the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs. There, Monomoy Girl won her ninth race in 11 starts in one of the most prestigious filly and mare races in the world. That performance capped a remarkable season that included five graded-stakes victories, including the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

Things went south in a hurry from there for the Tapizar mare, however. Monomoy Girl missed her entire 4-year-old campaign, dealing with a spring bout of colic and a fall hamstring strain. Trainer Brad Cox started breezing her at Fair Grounds in Louisiana in February, then shipped her to Keeneland for more intensive work in late March. Her last workout on May 9 featured a 59.4-second five-furlong bullet.

Uncertainty Turns to Optimism

“It’s so special to have a champion return to the races when we were faced with much uncertainty with her time on the sidelines,” Cox told Churchill Downs’ Kevin Kerstein. “She’s matured and seems ready to run again. It’s exciting for all the owners involved with her because they’ve been patient waiting for her return.”

That return comes at a place the now-5-year-old Monomoy Girl is quite comfortable with. She is 4-for-5 at Churchill Downs. Her only miss came in November 2017 — a second in the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes.

Since that race at the end of her 2-year-old season, Monomoy Girl went 5-for-6 – all in graded stakes events. Four of her victories were Grade 1s, and Monomoy Girl owns Grade 1 wins at five tracks, including Churchill Downs, Saratoga, Keeneland, Belmont Park, and Parx.

The $3 Million Monomoy Girl?

With $2,954,750 in career earnings to her name, Monomoy Girl could pass the $3 million mark on Saturday. That’s a big reason she’s an odds-on favorite, as is the fact she’s hit the board in all 11 of her races, with nine victories and two seconds. Not a bad return for a horse who cost $100,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016.

Her hefty reputation aside, Monomoy Girl isn’t the only stakes winner in Saturday’s fourth race. Awaiting her and regular jockey Florent Geroux in the starting gate are two other stakes winners, Talk Veuve to Me (7/2) and Fashion Faux Pas (10/1).

It’s a stronger field than you’d normally see in this class, but then again, this isn’t a normal opening day either. Churchill Downs attracted 162 entries for its 11-race card. That’s what pent-up racing demand in the COVID-19 era creates.

“We may have had the opportunity to run her at Oaklawn, but when the condition book came out for Churchill, this race was perfect,” Cox said about Monomoy Girl’s first non-stakes race since September 2017. “It’s a solid field on Saturday. I wouldn’t say we are nervous for her return, but more excitement (sic) because we are all ready to get her back.”