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Cox plots plans for his many promising 3-year-olds


After his fourth victory in Oaklawn’s final 9 Kentucky Derby factors races, coach Brad Cox is now plotting the subsequent strikes for his military of 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby path.

Cox’s prospect listing grew Sunday when he despatched out the 1-2 finishers within the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, Oaklawn’s first of 4 Kentucky Derby factors races. closely favored Victory Formation, co-owned by outstanding North Little Rock, Ark., businessman Frank Fletcher and Spendthrift Farm, remained unbeaten with a front-running three-length victory over Angel of Empire. Victory Formation (3-for-3) was making his stakes and two-turn debut.

Ridden for the primary time by Flavien Prat, Victory Formation coated 1 mile over a quick monitor in 1:38.14 to earn a preliminary Beyer Pace ​​Determine of 91, a profession excessive. Victory Formation ($3.20) equaled the shortest-priced winner within the Smarty Jones’ 16-year historical past.

“He is a reasonably sensible horse,” Cox stated throughout coaching hours Monday morning at Oaklawn. “I do know I’ve stated that a number of occasions, however he actually is. He is a horse that does not overdo it. He is not too onerous on himself and I feel that is going to take him a good distance and, hopefully, permit him to get extra floor and, clearly, have a protracted profession of racing.”

Cox stated Victory Formation appeared to exit the Smarty Jones in fine condition bodily, including that next-race plans are pending for the son of 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit. Cox stated Victory Formation is scheduled to return to Truthful Grounds, the place he has been based mostly this winter. Victory Formation, Tapwrit’s first stakes winner, remained at Oaklawn Wednesday morning. Cox additionally has a division of horses at Truthful Grounds.

Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby factors sequence continues with the Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28, the Insurgent Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 25 and the Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 1. Cox stated “it is too early” to inform whether or not Victory Formation will return to Oaklawn for different Kentucky Derby factors races, significantly the Arkansas Derby (G1), a race Fletcher covets probably the most.

“I am effectively conscious that Frank want to win the Arkansas Derby, however we’ll do what’s greatest for the horse and see if he takes us there,” Cox stated.

Cox stated next-race plans are also pending for Angel of Empire, who breezed twice final month at Oaklawn upfront of the Smarty Jones. Angel of Empire, by champion and 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Basic Empire, already owns two victories round two turns at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Angel of Empire acquired a preliminary Beyer Pace ​​Determine of 86, a 16-point bounce from his earlier better of him.

“Identical factor,” Cox stated. “The objective with him is to attempt to get him to the Kentucky Derby and attempt to win certainly one of these Grade 1’s alongside the way in which. I do not know which one. As soon as once more, too early to inform. However he actually stepped up. He confirmed me lots (Sunday). I assumed he may. Instructed (Joe) Talamo within the paddock, he is a horse that is going to come back working. He will keep on. I feel with extra floor, the higher for him.”

Victory Formation earned 10 factors towards beginning eligibility for the Kentucky Derby for his Smarty Jones victory. Angel of Empire acquired 4 factors. Based mostly on official rankings launched late Sunday afternoon by Churchill Downs, Cox has six of the highest 15 horses on the newest Kentucky Derby leaderboard – No. 4 Jace’s Street (13 factors), No. 5 Immediate Espresso (12), No. 6 Victory Formation (10), No. 11 Loggins (4), No. 12 Verifying (4) and No. 15 Angel of Empire (4).

Cox additionally trains unbeaten Corona Bolt, blowout winner of the Sugar Bowl Stakes at six furlongs Dec. 26 at Truthful Grounds; Large Mischief, runner-up within the Remington Springboard Mile on Dec. 17 at Remington Park; Hit Present, a pointy entry-level allowance winner at one mile Dec. 17 at Oaklawn; Tapit’s Conquest, who broke his maiden at 1 1/16 miles Oct. 1 at Churchill Downs; and Tapit Sneakers, who broke his maiden from him at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 3 at Truthful Grounds.

Cox stated he plans to begin Corona Bolt, Hit Present and probably Jace’s Street within the Southwest. Jace’s Street, by High quality Street, was a 5 1/2-length winner of the Gun Runner Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 26 at Truthful Grounds in his final begin. Large Mischief, Cox stated, is pointing for the Insurgent.

Cox stated he additionally has a handful of unstarted horses whom he believes nonetheless may make the Kentucky Derby path. Zozos, for instance, completed tenth within the 2022 Kentucky Derby for Cox after debuting in late January at Truthful Grounds.

“Hear, it isn’t simply the Derby,” Cox stated. “It is the Triple Crown, proper? Prefer it might be Preakness horses alongside the way in which.”

Cox, the reigning two-time Eclipse Award-winning coach, received the 2021 Kentucky Derby by way of disqualification with Mandaloun and the 2021 Belmont with champion Important High quality. Important High quality launched his 3-year-old marketing campaign with a victory within the Southwest.

Cox’s first brush with the Kentucky Derby got here in 2016 with Dazzling Gem, who received his first two profession begins as a 3-year-old early within the Oaklawn assembly earlier than ending third within the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Truthful Grounds and fourth three weeks later within the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).

“Clearly, Important High quality and Mandaloun have been the primary two horses we ran within the (Kentucky) Derby,” Cox stated. “As a lot as you suppose you may observe these items, and I’ve adopted it just about my whole life, the expertise of getting these horses on the path, it does imply lots. I feel there’s just a little little bit of a bonus to having a number of horses on the path as a result of you do not have to get in a rush or you do not really feel like, ‘Hey, look, this factors race is developing.’

“Dazzling Gem, form of my first horse that was on the Derby path, I did one thing that I in all probability would not do once more, and that was run him within the Louisiana Derby after which the Arkansas Derby,” Cox continued. “Finally, in all probability may have gotten in (Kentucky Derby) off the AE, trying again at it. However I in all probability spent the horse, and he was by no means fairly nearly as good as perhaps he may have been if now we have simply taken a deep breath. However you get the Derby fever.

“I do suppose it helps you when you may have multiples. We’re in an excellent place, however, clearly, now we have a whole lot of work to do. We’re attempting to provide all these horses a chance to be the most effective they are often.”

The Smarty Jones was the 269th profession Oaklawn victory for Cox. He has 29 profession stakes victories in Sizzling Springs. Along with the 2021 Southwest and 2023 Smarty Jones, Cox received the 2021 Smarty Jones with Caddo River and the 2022 Arkansas Derby with Cyberknife.

Cox entered Wednesday with 1,968 profession North American victories, in accordance with Equibase. He received 31 races final season at Oaklawn to complete third within the standings.

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