Trainer Brad Cox Nearing 2,000-Win Milestone

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt,

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Trainer Brad Cox Nearing 2,000-Win Milestone

Trainer Brad Cox continued his march toward 2,000 career victories after winning two races Saturday at Oaklawn, including the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares with favored A Mo Reay.

“Good day,” Jorgito Abrego, Cox’s Oaklawn-based assistant, said Sunday morning.

The double pushed Cox’s career victory total to 1,990, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. In addition to the Bayakoa, Cox won Saturday’s second raced with favored Family Tradition ($4.20).

A Mo Reay, under a ground-saving ride from Florent Geroux, collared a stubborn front-runner, Lovely Ride, in the final sixteenth of a mile to win the Bayakoa by a half-length. The winning time over a fast track was 1:45.07.

A Mo Reay ($6.20) is perfect in two starts for Cox, who was honored with an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding trainer in 2020 and 2021.

A 4-year-old daughter of super sire Uncle Mo, A Mo Reay was moved to Cox’s barn after being purchased for $400,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky Fall Mixed Sale in November. A Mo Reay, who was entered in the sale as a racing/broodmare prospect, was previously with Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. She now races for Kentucky-based Hunter Valley Farm (Fergus Galvin).

In her first start for Cox, A Mo Reay won the $100,000 off-the-turf Pago Hop Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards Dec. 31 at Fair Grounds. Cox said the Bayakoa – his 150th career graded stakes victory – was important because it enhanced A Mo Reay’s broodmare value.

“She’s nice,” Cox said by phone following the Bayakoa. “She’s been training really, really well. We liked her, obviously, in her last run at Fair Grounds. It obviously came off the turf. We were hoping it would. She stepped up and showed up (Saturday). She’s Grade 1 placed, but it was it was big to get the graded win with her.”

A Mo Reay won for the fourth time in 11 lifetime starts to increase her earnings to $392,650. She is a two-time stakes winner. A Mo Reay also finished third in the $400,000 Frizette (G1) for 2-year-old fillies in October 2021 at Belmont Park.

Cox said next-race plans are pending for A Mo Reay, but it’s “very possible” said he could run again at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. Oaklawn’s two-turn stakes series for older fillies and mares continues with the $350,000 Azeri (G2) March 11 and the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 15. Both races are 1 1/16 miles.

“I think that we’ll march forward with her,” Cox said.

The Bayakoa was Cox’s 30th career Oaklawn stakes victory and 274th overall in Hot Springs. Only 15 trainers in Oaklawn history have reached 300 career victories, the last being Robertino Diodoro Jan. 21. Cox was Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer last season with 31 victories and was 9 for 42, through Saturday, at the 2022-2023 meeting.

Cox saddled his first Oaklawn winner Feb. 5, 2009. His first career victory was Dec. 4, 2004, at Turfway Park with One Lucky Storm, who was racing for a $30,000 claiming tag. Almost two decades later, Cox, 42, continues to quickly build a Hall of Fame resume. His career has exploded in the last decade, with Eclipse Award winners like 2021 Horse of the Year Knicks Go and Monomoy Girl, the country’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2018 and older dirt female of 2020.

“It (time) does fly by, but it’s been good,” Cox said. “We’ve had a great run. A lot of our overall success has a lot to do with making that jump, leaving Kentucky in the winter and coming to Oaklawn. That really kick-started this whole thing for us. And, obviously, we’ve had great owners and great help and great horses.”

A Mo Reay marked Cox’s third Bayakoa victory. He also won the race in 2016 with Call Pat and in 2021 with Monomoy Girl.

Cox has one horse entered Friday at Oaklawn and said he plans to run Key of Life in its $150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters Feb. 11. Cox said he will have at least two starters (Verifying and Giant Mischief) in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) Feb. 25. The 1 1/16-mile Rebel is Oaklawn’s third of four Kentucky Derby points race.

“I don’t know if that’s it right now, but those are the two that we’re definitely pointing for it,” Cox said. “We’ll just kind of see how everything else falls into place over the next week or so.”

Cox has won four of Oaklawn’s last 10 Kentucky Derby points races, including the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1 with unbeaten Victory Formation.

Trainer Norm Casse

Casse Crushing It

Norm Casse saddled another winner Saturday at Oaklawn in Cactus, continuing the trainer’s torrid start at the 2022-2023 meeting that began Dec. 9.

Through Saturday, Day 23 of the scheduled 68-day meeting, Casse had compiled a sparkling 8-2-1 record from 16 starts and bankrolled $468,750 in purse earnings. Casse already has two stakes victories at the meeting – $150,000 Poinsettia Dec. 17 with Pretty Birdie and the $150,000 American Beauty for older female sprinters Jan. 21 with Hot and Sultry for prominent Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong.

Casse, in his Oaklawn debut last season, was 5 for 21, highlighted by Pretty Birdie’s victory in the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters.

“It’s just one of those deals – first and foremost, my stable kind of focuses on dirt,” Casse said Sunday morning. “I like running in dirt races, so naturally this is a good fit for the horses that are here. A lot of the horses that have won here probably should have won their race prior at Churchill. So, we’re sitting, and we have horses that are sitting on wins. They were just unfortunate last time. And I just have to be honest. I feel like we have a great team here and really kind of figured Oaklawn out a little bit. It goes without saying that we’ve been supported by really great owners.”

Casse said Pretty Birdie, a homebred for the iconic Marylou Whitney Stables, remains on target for the $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older female sprinters Feb. 25 at Oaklawn. Casse said there’s “an outside chance” Hot and Sultry also runs in the Carousel.

“We’re still trying to toy with the idea of possibly stretching Hot and Sultry out,” Casse said. “That’s a decision that will be made at a later date.”

Casse said a potential two-turn landing spot for Hot and Sultry would be the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles March 11 at Oaklawn.

“It just depends on what’s in the condition book,” Casse said. “I would think that would have to be the race that she probably has to be in if we want to do that.”

The Azeri is the final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 15.

Casse has approximately 15 horses at Oaklawn.

Milestone Watch

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen entered Sunday with 9,990 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Asmussen, already North America’s all-time winningest trainer, has collected a record 12 Oaklawn training titles. Asmussen had 9,992 career worldwide victories because Curlin won two races in the United Arab Emirates in 2008.

Asmussen entered Sunday with 830 career victories at Oaklawn (No. 2 all time) after promising 3-year-old Gun Pilot ($3.40) won Saturday’s seventh race, a $103,000 entry-level allowance at 1 mile.

The late Bob Holthus (867) is Oaklawn’s all-time winningest trainer.

Finish Lines

Eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. won three races Saturday, increasing his career total in Hot Springs to 692. Santana won the fourth race aboard Homecoming Queen ($13) for trainer Rodolphe Brisset, fifth race aboard Cactus ($7.80) for trainer Norm Casse and the seventh race aboard favored Gun Pilot ($3.40) for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Santana is the seventh-winningest rider in Oaklawn history. The triple pushed Santana’s career North American total to 1,801, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. … Four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance won Saturday’s first race with Charter Oak ($48.40). Vance’s son, trainer Tommy Vance of Hot Springs, won Saturday’s third race with Funny Uncle ($48). David Vance has at least one victory at every Oaklawn meeting since 1966, expect for two years (2011 and 2012), when he wintered in Florida and didn’t have a starter in Hot Springs.