It was a great weekend for Bob Baffert.
It was an even better weekend for Brad Cox.
That's not to take anything away from Baffert, the legendary California-based trainer who won the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic for a fourth time when Kentucky Derby champion Authentic hit the finish line first on Saturday. Adding Gamine's win in the Filly & Mare Sprint earlier in the day, Baffert now has 17 Breeders' Cup victories, just three behind all-time leader D. Wayne Lukas.
But over two days of star-studded competition in gorgeous Kentucky weather at Keeneland, it was Cox's brightly burning star that continues to rise.
The 40-year-old Louisville native trained four Breeders' Cup winners over two days -- Aunt Pearl in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf; Essential Quality in the $2 million Juvenile; Knicks Go in the $1 million Dirt Mile and the incomparable Monomoy Girl in the $2 million Distaff. The quartet of victories matched Richard Mandella's 2003 feat at Santa Anita Park, back when the extravaganza was a one-day event.
"I look up to guys like that," Cox said Saturday of Mandella. "I can remember watching on TV when he won those four races and a credit to him, there wasn't as many races then and it was all one day. So that was an amazing feat. But we'll take four within two days and be very proud of our team that we have in place."
Cox's place is quickly approaching the higher echelon of his profession. After his runners earned less than $3 million in 2015, Cox's stable has grown each year, going from $3.6 million in 2016; $8.8 million in 2017; $15.2 million in 2018; $17.6 million in 2019. He has won $17.3 million in 2020, with not quite two months remaining.
"Everyone works extremely well together," Cox said Saturday, "and it's one big team that's all competitive group of guys that work hard and it's long, grueling hours and long days and that's what you got to have. And, obviously, the owners give us a tremendous amount of horses and talent and horse flesh to work with and that's what you got to have."
None more talented than Monomoy Girl, the 5-year-old daughter of Tapizar who Saturday completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in racing history. After finishing first in all seven of her 2018 starts -- the filly was disqualified to second in one start -- including the Kentucky Oaks and the Breeders' Cup Distaff, Monomoy missed the 2019 season thanks to first a bad case of colic and then a pulled gluteal muscle.
After an 18-month layoff, Monomoy came back to win an allowance race at Churchill Downs on May 16, the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes at Belmont Park on July 11 and the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill on Sept. 4. She then finished her racing career appropriately with her second win in the Distaff before being part of the Fasig-Tipton November Sale on Sunday.
"She's meant so much and I think, honestly, she's responsible for all these Breeders' Cup victories," Cox said Saturday. "She's played a role in them, us being able to acquire the horses or pick up the horses one way or another. So she's the one that I think showed the nation that we could play at the Grade 1 level."
Cox's next step is to compete at the Triple Crown level. He has never won one of the three classics, nor has he had a Kentucky Derby starter. That should quickly change. By winning Friday's Juvenile, Godolphin's Essential Quality will enter the spring as the early Derby favorite.
"Well, sure, I mean, it's the obvious thought or the dream, I guess you would say," Cox said. "And I know the Godolphin team is, first and foremost, put the horse first and will allow him to come out of the race and let the dust settle, see where we end up, see how he comes out of the race, and we'll knock out a plan this winter. But very excited about this horse next year in his 3-year-old campaign."