Catching My Eye: Cox striking at 42% through Jan. 29 at Fair Grounds
The Fair Grounds meet hit the halfway mark last Thursday. Looking over the individual performances of jockeys and trainers, there’s one stat that stands out among them all. 42%.
Through the end of races Sunday, Jan. 29, the Brad Cox barn has sent out 50 runners, 21 of them winners. 42%. That’s incredible.
The success in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Oaks (G1) prep races accounts for five of those wins, winning the Lecomte (G3), Silverbulletday, Gun Runner, Sugar Bowl, and Letellier. Three others came last week—let’s take a look at Bartulia from Sunday, Strobe from Friday, and Warrant from Thursday’s races at Fair Grounds.
After the last two races, both over off tracks, there’s one thing we know about Bartulia: he has eaten his competition for lunch. Cox added blinkers, the light clicked on, and in his two wins, the Creative Cause four-year-old has put 16 lengths between him and his foes.
On Sunday, Bartulia faced winners for the first time. Everything went his way with a couple of key scratches and a perfect trip sitting just off the front runner Doctor Nash, who could not go with Bartulia as Florent Geroux opened him up in the sloppy stretch.
Novogratz Racing Stable has got a good one, over sloppy tracks at least. After breaking his maiden with a 93 Brisnet Speed figure, on Sunday he notched a couple higher to get a 95. A fast track, stiffer competition, and facing adversity are the challenges that lie ahead. I imagine Cox will run him through his conditions as long as those races continue to fill.
Speaking of Cox letting a horse run through his conditions even though they are winning by open lengths and earning stakes-level speed figures… how about that Godolphin sprinter Strobe? On Friday, he got his second win of the meet and again was much the best.
After letting the keen inside front runners go, the impressive four-year-old cruised by and never looked back, winning the 6-furlong race by 5 1/4 lengths. I gave Tulane Tryst and Ready to Pounce a puncher’s chance to take Strobe down, but man was I wrong.
The Cox barn has a few Into Mischiefs (Giant Mischief and Dazzling Blue come to mind) and this one is now a perfect 4-for-4 on a fast dirt track in five starts. Strobe’s lone second came over a sloppy track in November at Churchill Downs. In terms of speed figures, he still hasn’t run back to his Derby-day debut 107. But he hasn’t needed to. On Friday he earned a 100, his race prior a 101.
Geroux said after the race that Strobe is plenty confident and ready to take on stakes company.
After a winless 2022 for Warrant, Cox decided to give him a break and bring him back against lesser, facing four others in a conditional optional claimer at Fair Grounds on Thursday. Presumably a confidence booster.
The one mile and 70 yards is shorter than the five-year-old’s preferred distances, but even with that in mind, this effort did not get me excited to back Warrant when he steps up to stakes level company. And with four wins to his name, that’s likely where we’ll find him next.
On Thursday, Warrant took to the front after the first call and built an advantage he was able to maintain through the homestretch, though Bret Calhoun’s runner (Mailman Money) made a minor bid late. He never unleashed anything special or dazzled me with how easy he made it look. The field he faced was certainly not graded stakes quality. I would be hard-pressed to back any of them outside of a statebred/restricted stakes scenario.
Winner of the Texas and Oklahoma derbies in 2021, Warrant just never stepped forward when he started facing older horses. In 2022 he faced graded stakes company in five straight races and to his credit, he did run honestly each time, only to get beat by some quality distance runners (such as Fearless and Express Train).
Warrant’s best races have come as the second run in his form cycle, so he could find his three-year-old form next out, but who is his three-year-old form good enough to beat? You can have him all you want, I’ll find another to beat him on the win end in his next outing. Though he is definitely a consistent type underneath, 12 times in-the-money in 13 races.