LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Brad Cox grew up two blocks from Churchill Downs, on Rebel Avenue. His father started bringing him to the track at age 5 or 6. His dad was a Pat Day man, like many around the track in those days.

Maybe one day very soon, you’ll see a lot of Brad Cox men around the old track.

There were a bunch of them on Friday. Cox used to daydream in his Iroquois High School classes about which wagers at Churchill could be winners. He didn’t really dream of a day like this, less than a month removed from his first Grade 1 victory in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.

The winner of that race, Monomoy Girl, broke from the far outside post, was three-wide entering the first turn, had the lead entering the stretch, lost it briefly to Wonder Gadot, then fought back to hit the wire first and send Cox to dreamland as winner of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks before a crowd of better than 113,510 at Churchill Downs, the fifth-largest crowd in the history of the race.

Cox won the Oaks in his first try, but it has been anything but a short trip. Four years as an assistant to Dallas Stewart. Fourteen more as a trainer on his own.

Now, you can put him up there with the biggest names in the game. He saddled two of the top six finishers in the Oaks and three of the top eight.

The colt’s ownership group started chuckling as post-race questions began for Cox, wondering how long it would be before he teared up.

But Cox was all smiles.

“I was 12 or 13 about the time I decided I wanted to train horses,” Cox said. “It was about then that I thought winning a race like this might be a great thing. . . . But this feeling is unbelievable. It worked out just the way we planned, just the trip we were hoping for. Florent (Geroux) did a great job getting her out of the gate and getting her into position. She was three-wide into the first turn. That’s what we expected. It all went well. She was able to put herself where she needed to be and kick on down the lane.”

Everything didn’t go as expected once in the stretch, however. Wonder Gadot came running under jockey John Velasquez, and put a head in front, but his filly was bumped, causing her to change leads, and causing Velasquez to lodge an objection with stewards.

“We were battling head and head in the stretch,” he said. “When they came out and knocked her sideways, she went back to the left lead. At least I have to take a chance on it. I mean, I’m fighting the whole way around and all of a sudden she goes back to her left lead when she gets bumped.”

After reviewing the incident, stewards refused to disqualify the winner. Wonder Gadot remained second, Midnight Bisou was third.

After watching a replay of the race, Cox said he felt sure the win would stand – but you never can be sure until it’s official.

“After watching the head-on, I felt pretty confident,” Cox said. “There was some brushing. . . . but that’s racing.”

Even Wonder Gadot’s trainer, Mark Casse, was fine with the decision.

“The contact did make our filly switch her leads, but I think it was going to be really close,” Casse said. “I think the stewards made the right call. To take a horse down in this type of race, it would have to be pretty significant. As much as I’d like to say I would like to have won, I understand the ruling.”

Geroux said his filly sometimes gets distracted on the lead, and that her issue was more mental than physical. Once challenged, she came back. That’s not often the case when a horse is passed in the stretch. Monomoy Girl suffered her only loss in seven career starts at Churchill as a 2-year-old, but has been perfect in three stakes tries at three.

“At the 5/16 pole I saw him start having to nudge her a little,” Cox said. She’s a filly that likes to be near other horses, she doesn’t like to run away from them. A natural herd instinct. I was worried. Anytime you’re in a horse race and get passed in the lane, that’s reason for concern. And she doesn’t like to be ridden aggressively, but when Florent had to get her behind the saddle, she responded.”

Michael Dubb, co-owner with Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stables, called Cox, “One of the great emerging trainers in the sport.”

Cox, thinking back to those afternoons waiting for the bell to ring at Iroquois, has to like the ring of that. Monomoy Girl is now 6-1-0 in seven starts, with career earnings of $1,120,750 after winning $564,200 on Friday.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment,” Cox said. “I’m proud of the team, proud of the family. These owners gave us an opportunity with a great filly. I don’t want to let them down. It’s been an unbelievable ride. We put a plan in place, made this our third race off the layoff, and everything has moved extremely well.”

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