There are six trainers in North America whose horses have earned more than $10 million in 2018. The first five are Steve Asmussen, Chad Brown, Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, and Mark Casse, trainers with multiple champions and dozens of Breeders' Cup wins.
Brad Cox, 38, is No. 6 on the list. Remember the name. He is the next big player in American racing. Before this year, Cox was closing in on winning the TV races, but had never won a Grade I. In 2018, he has won four Grade I races, and all with the same horse, the brilliant 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl, whose next start will come Saturday in the $1 million Cotillion at Parx.
Cox is closing on 1,000 winners in his career. His horses have earned $36 million. His handling of Monomoy Girl shows he understands the crucial element of a modern stakes trainer — attention to detail.
Every time the filly has run in 2018, she has been ready to deliver her maximum performance. The Cotillion looks no different. Cox could have run Monomoy Girl in the Aug. 18 Alabama at Saratoga, but, after five races from February to July, he chose to give her 60 days to the Cotillion and another six weeks to the Breeders' Cup.
"It seems like fillies that have taken the route we've taken have done well in the Cotillion," Cox said from his Churchill Downs base.
Monomoy Girl is a neck loss in her final start as a 2-year-old from being unbeaten in nine races. She is really fast, so she is always right in her races, but the two times she has been far behind early, she won anyway.
Her first two starts were on grass. Then, according to Cox, she had two "phenomenal" weeks before her first dirt start nearly a year ago.
"She backed it up [in the race], and we started thinking this could be a special filly," Cox said.
Special indeed, with five wins in 2018 at five tracks: the Fair Grounds, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, and Saratoga. Now, she will try to win at Parx before returning to her home base for the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill.
"In her only defeat, we felt if she would have run straight instead of weaving down the lane, she would have got the job done that day," Cox said.
Cox had some initial success in the business but lost his major client. In 2012, he was down to three horses at one point. Now, he has 100 and trains for some of the most serious owners in the sport. Do not be surprised if he wins Triple Crown races soon. This really looks like the start of something very big.
The Ashland on April 7 was the first Grade I.
"It was unbelievable that day at Keeneland," Cox said. "I felt like we were running the fastest horse. … That weekend, we had some really bad weather. We had some snow. We'd been close in some Grade I's. It was, like, 'Man, what's it going to take to win one of these things?' ''
It's going to take a really good horse and a trainer who knows exactly how to give that horse the best chance.
That was the first time one of Cox's horses was expected to win a Grade I. She was the second choice in the Kentucky Oaks and an odds-on favorite in the Acorn and CCA Oaks. She won them all, and will be a heavy favorite in the Cotillion.
Monomoy Girl has already clinched the 3-year-old filly championship, so she is Cox's first champion. On paper, the Cotillion sets up nicely, without much early speed besides Monomoy Girl. Only long shot Jump Ruler appears to have enough speed to hang around early in the race. Monomoy Girl has run against three of the well-regarded fillies in the Cotillion six times and beaten them all every time.