SARATOGA - Three-time Grade 1 winner Monomoy Girl and recent Grade 2 Mother Goose winner Midnight Bisou, who ran first and third respectively in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, will vie for supremacy in the 3-year-old filly division as part of a field of five in the 102nd running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks over 1 1/8 miles on the main track on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Owned by Michael Dubb, Monomoy Stables, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stables, Monomoy Girl is undefeated in her 3-year-old campaign, posting four straight wins against graded stakes company, including a half-length score in the Kentucky Oaks on May 4 at Churchill Downs.
In her last three starts, the Tapizar filly has earned Beyer Speed Figures of 95 or better, winning the Grade 1 Ashland on April 7 at Keeneland, the Kentucky Oaks at the Coaching Club American Oaks distance, and a two-length win in the Grade 1 Acorn on Belmont Stakes Day, June 9 at Belmont Park.
Monomoy Girl is 7-for-8 in her career with her only non-winning effort a second-place finish by a neck to Road to Victory in the Grade 2 Golden Rod to cap her juvenile year in November at Churchill.
After already posting wins at five different tracks - Indiana Grand Race Course, Churchill, Fair Grounds, Keeneland and Belmont - trainer Brad Cox said Monomoy Girl shipped in well to Saratoga since arriving Sunday morning.
"She's been over on the main track and handled it really well and stood in the gate this morning, so I'm super pleased with how she looks and how she's handled things so far," Cox said. "She's a laid back filly, she doesn't get too worked up."
Monomoy Girl has three wins and a second-place finish in four career starts longer than a mile.
"She maintains her weight, her look, her coat, she's so consistent with her works each week. She lets you know she's ready," Cox said. "She's on her game and hopefully she brings her 'A' game. That should be good enough."
Sunday will pit Monomoy Girl against Midnight Bisou, who ran third behind Wonder Gadot and Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks. In that race, Monomoy Girl stayed off the early speed and took the lead into the second turn before steading for a two-length win.
"A lot of fillies she ran against in the Oaks have come back to win huge races, so it's a good 3-year-old filly crop that's very strong," Cox said. "She's one of the top in the class and at the end of the year we'll see if we can win an Eclipse [Award], that's our goal."
Monomoy Girl drew post 4. Jockey Florent Geroux, who has been aboard for all six of her stakes starts, will have the return call.
Midnight Bisou is also coming off an impressive win at Belmont, capturing the Mother Goose by six lengths on June 30. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bisou earned a 94 Beyer in finishing well clear of Road to Victory, the only horse to beat Monomoy Girl.
Bloom Racing Stable and Madaket Stables' Midnight Bisou has already been at Saratoga, putting in her final work before the Coaching Club American Oaks on Saturday, going four furlongs in 50.73 seconds on the Oklahoma training track.
"She's training great, it's a tough race, but we're looking forward to it," said Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi.
After starting her career with back-to-back second-place finishes as a 2-year-old, the daughter of Midnight Lute, who was trained by Bill Spawr, started her year by winning the Grade 2 Santa Ynez on January 7 and the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel on March 3, both at Santa Anita, before heading to the Kentucky Oaks.
Following her win against a four-horse field in the Mother Goose, Midnight Bisou will race for the first time at the Spa, exiting post 2 in tandem with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
Eskimo Kisses will be facing Monomoy Girl for a third straight race. The Ken McPeek trainee ran second to her in the Ashland, finishing 5 ½-lengths behind on a fast main track. In the Kentucky Oaks, the To Honor and Serve filly rallied from 12-of-14 to finish fourth, just a half-length behind Midnight Bisou in her first start at 1 1/8 miles.
The Kentucky homebred will be seeking her first stakes win, breaking from post 3 with Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano.
John Oxley's Gio Game will look to build on her strong performance in her stakes debut when she ran third in the Acorn last month on Belmont's Big Sandy.
"I was hoping they would be three horses in so we can hit the board," trainer Mark Casse said with a laugh. "She's doing great, but it's a tough, tough race. I think she'll like it here in Saratoga."
Since returning to the dirt in April, Gio Game finished second in an optional claimer at Keeneland and won against a similar class on May 4 at Churchill. She took a step up in class last month, finishing behind Talk Veuve to Me and Monomoy Girl.
"If you look, her numbers and getting better and better, but this is going to be a tough one," Casse said. "She usually likes to be fairly close, so I don't think she'll be too far back."
Jockey Julien Leparoux will look to ensure Gio Game stays near the pace in breaking from the outside post.
Chocolate Martini, the winner of the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 24, shipped in from Kentucky earlier this month and put in a four-furlong breeze on Saratoga's main track, going four furlongs in 48.03 seconds on Tuesday.
Trained by Tom Amoss, Chocolate Martini was fifth in the Kentucky Oaks and parlayed that performance into a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita on June 16.
Chocolate Martini will break from the rail with Irad Ortiz, Jr.