Catching My Eye: Cox Bags Five Over the Weekend at Ellis
A day after winning the Arlington Million (G1) with Set Piece on Aug. 13, the Brad Cox barn went 0-for-5 at Ellis Park, with all entries being sent off as the favorite. The beginning of a cold streak? Nah.
In the three days of racing since then, Cox racked up five more wins with nine starters, putting him at 18 wins and in position to win his fifth Ellis Park trainers' title since 2015. In second with 12 wins going into the last week of the meet, it would take a monster weekend from Steve Asmussen to surpass Cox.
Friday, Aug 18, 2023
Showing just one chink in his armor when fighting his rider in the first turn, there was nothing else you could call juvenile about the two-year-old Mozlzil’s first run. Facing a field of seven going 1 1/16 miles on the turf, the three-length winner broke well, settled in the backstretch, and had more than enough in his tanks despite losing ground on both turns. Physically, you couldn’t hope for a freshman to look any better--a big fella with bulging muscles and a course-destroying stride.
Breaking sharply from gate 8, Mozlzil had the front on his mind, but jockey Gerardo Corrales was able to tuck him behind the leaders coming out of the first turn. From there it was smooth sailing. Stalking two-wide, the son of Uncle Mo got his shot at the lead going wide in the second turn, and powered past the 4-5 favorite Black Diamond at the eighth pole. He opened up impressively, demonstrating what could be a dangerous late kick in a more contested and traffic-laden stretch run.
A 76 Brisnet Speed figure is a solid number to begin a career. Mozlzil will only step forward in his next race. Out of the Smart Strike mare Southern Strike, Mozlzil’s half-sibling Fila Primera ran third in the 2014 Jessamine (G3) in her second start and then went on to win the Pago Hop Stakes at Fair Grounds. I wouldn't be surprised to see an equally ambitious campaign here.
Breaking in the middle of the clubhouse turn for the 1 1/4 miles distance, Quadra Island overcame a wide post and early tight position to settle behind the four foes he would need to knock off one by one to get the win in his first run since the winter Turfway meet. He’d have to get past a perfect-trip Idratherbeblessed, who drew inside, and was handed an easy lead which translated into soft fractions and plenty left at the end.
King Curlin took the most money at 7-5, and Quadra Island again showed his penchant for running with a target, following the favorite out of the turn and surging by in the final strides. Corrales had the winning reins, giving him his fourth on the day, but he wasn’t done yet.
In his first try across the lawn and his first race since being gelded, Quadra Island earned an 81 Brisnet Speed figure, which matches his best over the Tapeta at Turfway. A three-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy out of the Unbirdled’s Song mare Sky Walk, the Cox trainee is a half to the graded-stakes winner Stunning Sky.
By the time Race 8 rolled around, the public got tired of being wise guys and finally made a Cox horse the favorite. The $1,250,000 Into Mischief filly Pumpkin Scone has never not been the favorite. After finishing second to Mo Town Mayhem on debut and again to Absinthe on July 1 at Ellis, Friday was the day to reward her faithful. She had nine to beat, but the number of three-year-old and up fillies didn’t matter because Pumpkin Scone had the inside draw, and once she got into her stride and to the lead, she never looked back.
Some might be disappointed that their seven-figure purchase did not race as a two-year-old or win in her first two starts, but listen, if you are looking for a racehorse and not a broodmare, then you couldn't ask for a better beginning. An 85 Brisnet Speed figure on debut, 87 second out, and now a 91 in her maiden breaker, this is the type of forward progression you want for a filly who has been brought along at her own pace. She could be knocking at the door of stakes races soon enough. On the other hand, the connections of $1.1 million Evergrande, who finished third to Pumpkin Scone on Friday, might be a touch disappointed.
Can she go longer than six furlongs? A half sibling to Tap the Faith who won twice at one mile, Pumpkin Scone galloped out well after winning by 7 1/2 lengths. She did ride the rail, but she was never really asked, so there could still be more there. Or, she could have beaten up a soft field of late-in-the-year maidens racing on the most favorable part of the track.
Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023
Declared a non-starter on debut after unseating his rider while tangled up in the gate, Alder got another chance on Sunday, and the Godolphin homebred made the most of it. He broke a touch green, settled in fourth behind three duelers, and made mincemeat of them at the top of the stretch. Flying by like they were standing still, Alder soon put ten lengths on them before gearing down and finalizing the thumping at 6 1/4 lengths.
His full sibling Urban Forest was never able to get a win under Bill Mott’s care, traveling over the turf for six of her nine attempts. A daughter of the turf runner Arbol who is by the turf star Elusive Quality, we could see this Hard Spun at Kentucky Downs after that solid 83 Brisnet Speed figure debut.
Staying at a sprint distance after breaking his maiden on debut, Elite Forces broke from the outside of five, stalked three-wide, and had his hooves full in the stretch, battling with Pensacola throughout the stretch before putting his head in front in the final strides and making it official at a half-length.
A son of American Freedom out of the Tale of the Cat mare Ten K Cat, I’d imagine we continue to see this three-year-old colt at sprint distances. He made a promising but modest step forward, scoring a 91 Brisnet Speed figure after the 86 on debut.