Following his fourth victory in Oaklawn’s final 9 Kentucky Derby factors races, coach Brad Cox is now plotting the following strikes for his military of 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby path.
Cox’s prospect record 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 observe 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 fairly good horse,” Cox stated throughout coaching hours Monday morning at Oaklawn. “I do know I’ve stated that a number of instances, however he actually is. He is a horse that does not overdo it. He is not too arduous on himself and I believe 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 good condition bodily, including 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 $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28, $1 million Insurgent Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 25 and the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby at 1 1/ 8 miles April 1. Cox stated “it is too early” to inform if Victory Formation will return to Oaklawn for different Kentucky Derby factors races, significantly the Arkansas Derby, a race Fletcher covets probably the most.
“I am properly 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 additionally pending for Angel of Empire, who breezed twice final month at Oaklawn prematurely of the Smarty Jones. Angel of Empire, by champion and 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Traditional 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.
“Similar factor,” Cox stated. “The aim with him is to attempt to get him to the Kentucky Derby and attempt to win one among these Grade 1’s alongside the best way. I do not know which one. As soon as once more, too early to inform. However he actually stepped up. He confirmed me quite a bit yesterday. I assumed he might. Informed (Joe) Talamo within the paddock, he is a horse that is going to return working. He’ll keep on. I believe 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 Highway (13 factors), No. 5 Instantaneous 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 (by Bolt d’Oro), blowout winner of the $100,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes at 6 furlongs Dec. 26 at Truthful Grounds; Large Mischief (Into Mischief), runner-up within the $400,000 Remington Park Springboard Mile Stakes Dec. 17 at Remington Park; Hit Present (Sweet Trip), a pointy entry-level allowance winner at 1 mile Dec. 17 at Oaklawn; Tapit’s Conquest (Tapit), who broke his maiden at 1 1/16 miles Oct. 1 at Churchill Downs; and Tapit Sneakers (Tapit), who broke his maiden de él at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 3 at Truthful Grounds.
Cox stated he plans to begin Corona Bolt, Hit Present and presumably Jace’s Highway within the Southwest. Jace’s Highway (High quality Highway) was a 5 ½-length winner of the $100,000 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 that he believes nonetheless might 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.
“Pay attention, it is not simply the Derby,” Cox stated. “It is the Triple Crown, proper. Prefer it may very well be Preakness horses alongside the best way.”
Cox, the reigning two-time Eclipse Award-winning coach, received the 2021 Kentucky Derby (through 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 had been the primary two horses we ran within the (Kentucky) Derby,” Cox stated. “As a lot as you suppose you’ll be able to observe these things, and I’ve adopted it just about my whole life, the expertise of getting these horses on the path, it does imply quite a bit. I believe there’s slightly 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, sort of my first horse that was on the Derby path, I did one thing that I most likely would not do once more and that was run him within the Louisiana Derby after which the Arkansas Derby. Finally, he most likely might have gotten in (Kentucky Derby) off the AE, trying again at it. However I most likely spent the horse and he was by no means fairly nearly as good as perhaps he might 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 have got multiples. We’re in a superb place, however, clearly, now we have quite a lot of work to do. We’re attempting to offer 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 keeping with Equibase, racing’s official information gathering group. He received 31 races final season at Oaklawn to complete third within the standings.