For Immediate Release

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, Director of Racing or 501-363-4305

Coach and Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Photo credit: Coady Photography


HOT SPRINGS, AR (Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022) – Trainer Brad Cox tries to continue his dominance in Oaklawn’s two-turn stakes series for older fillies and mares in Saturday’s $250,000 Bayakoa (G3) at 1 1/16 miles.

The Bayakoa originally was scheduled Feb. 5 before being postponed because of a winter storm that closed the track last weekend. The Bayakoa was redrawn Monday, with the original cast of seven again entered. The field will be reduced by at least one after trainer Phil Bauer said Mariah’s Princess would be scratched.

Probable post time for the 1 1/16-mile Bayakoa, the eighth of 11 races, is 3:47 p.m. (Central). The 10th race is the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. First post Saturday is 12:10 p.m. (Central).

Cox has won four of Oaklawn’s last five two-turn stakes races for older females, dating to the $150,000 Pippin in January 2021 with Getridofwhatailesu. Cox then captured the $250,000 Bayakoa (G3) with two-time Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl and the $350,000 Azeri (G2) with Shedaresthedevil. Monomoy Girl, in what would be her final career start, was beaten a nose by Letruska in the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) last April to deny Cox a four-race sweep in 2021.

Cox found the winner’s circle again in the $150,000 Pippin Jan. 8 with Coach, who is the 5-2 program favorite Saturday. Cox also has the 3-1 co-second choice in the program in multiple stakes winner Matera.

Freshened following last April’s $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies, Coach is seeking her third consecutive victory. She was a sharp two-length allowance winner in her Dec. 17 comeback race at Oaklawn.

“Obviously, Coach loves Oaklawn,” Cox said. “She’s better than she’s ever been. She always tries hard. She’s very competitive. Obviously, it’s a step up. The way she’s training, I feel like she can step another step forward. It will be her third run off the layoff, so I’m excited about her.”

Blue-blooded Matera – Tapit out of Oaklawn stakes winner Miss Macy Sue – captured an allowance race last March in Hot Springs in her first start for Cox. The $1.4 million Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate added stakes victories at Horseshoe Indianapolis (formerly Indiana Grand) and Ellis Park before closing 2021 with a runner-up finish in the $300,000 Chilukki Stakes (G3) Nov. 20 at Churchill Downs.

“Matera missed a little bit of time once she arrived at Oaklawn,” Cox said. “Had an illness. Nothing major at all, we just missed some time. Got her back going and she’s had three works since. This was obviously a race we were pointing for, this and the Houston Ladies Classic (Jan. 30). Waiting for this gave us an opportunity to work her once more. She’s a little behind where we expected her to be, given the fact she ran in November, and missed a little time. But she’s done extremely well once we got her back to the track and training, so we’ll see where we are.”

The Bayakoa entrants from the rail out: Matera, Florent Geroux to ride, 119 pounds, 3-1 on the morning line; Miss Bigly, Ramon Vazquez, 119, 9-2; She’s All Wolfe, Francisco Arrieta, 119, 12-1; Jilted Bride, Joel Rosario, 119, 8-1; Mariah’s Princess, Martin Garcia, 119, 5-1; Queen Goddess, David Cabrera, 119, 3-1; and Coach, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 5-2.

Mariah’s Princess, however, will be scratched after not training satisfactorily, Bauer said in a text message Wednesday night. Mariah’s Princess has won her last two starts by a combined 9 ¼ lengths, including a three-length score in the inaugural $150,000 Mistletoe Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 4.

“Tough game,” Bauer said.

Southern California-based Queen Goddess exits a front-running 2 ¾-length victory in the $300,000 American Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. The 1 ¼-mile American Oaks, moved from the grass to the main track because of rain, marked the dirt debut for Queen Goddess, a 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker who races for her breeder, TOLO Thoroughbreds, & Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.

Trainer Michael McCarthy said Queen Goddess arrived in Hot Springs Feb. 1 after being flown via FedEx to Memphis and vanned approximately 190 miles. Queen Goddess worked an easy half-mile in :53.40 Monday in advance of the Bayakoa, which is a major local prep for the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 12 and, ultimately, the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 23. The Azeri and Apple Blossom are also 1 1/16-mile races.

“Looks like on paper she should be right there, with a little bit of speed outside of her,” McCarthy said. “The controlling speed looks to be inside, so David can get himself into a good position going into the first turn and let the chips fall as they may.”

Queen Goddess made her first five career starts on grass. In addition to winning at 1 ¼ miles, Queen Goddess broke her maiden at 1 1/16 miles Aug. 7 at Del Mar and finished fifth in the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Oct. 16 at Keeneland.

“This is a mile and a sixteenth, so a little different strategy, a little different race shape,” McCarthy said. “We’ll see. She’s certainly earned the chance to go ahead and compete.”

The consistent Miss Bigly ran third behind Matera in the Chilukki and second behind Coach in the Pippin. Trained by Phil D’Amato, Miss Bigly has finished first, second or third in 19 of 25 lifetime starts.