By Joe Bianca
It was two years–and four months–ago that Monomoy Girl (Tapizar) gamely dug in past the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs to earn a victory in the GI Kentucky Oaks. This Friday, the popular champion will be in action at Churchill Downs on Oaks Day once more, this time as a 5-year-old in the GI La Troienne S., her first try in a Grade I since being sidelined for all of 2019.
Following her Oaks triumph with scores in the GI Acorn S., GI Coaching Club American Oaks and GI Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff–also at Churchill–to wrap up her brilliant sophomore season, the chestnut never made it to the races after suffering a variety of setbacks as a 4-year-old. Her connections persisted, however, and she has rewarded them with a pair of successes upon her much-awaited return, first in a sloppy-track local optional claimer May 16 and then in the GII Ruffian S. July 11 at Belmont. While the 85 Beyer she earned in the former try was her lowest career number on dirt, the 104 she picked up for the Ruffian established a new career top. That effort was also flattered when runner-up Vexatious (Giant's Causeway) returned to upset champion Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute) in the GI Personal Ensign S. next out.
Vexatious is back to take another crack at Monomoy Girl in the La Troienne. Considered a solid if unspectacular distance dirt and turf runner through much of her career, the 6-year-old has moved forward in a big way for trainer Jack Sisterson as a dedicated main-track specialist. She came within a neck of beating eventual Distaff victress Blue Prize (Arg) (Pure Prize) in last year's Summer Colony S. at Saratoga and, after finishing 8 3/4 lengths clear of the remainder while only beaten two lengths by the favorite at 14-1 in the Ruffian, became just the third horse to beat Midnight Bisou in that mare's last 11 starts when gamely denying her by a neck.
Horologist (Gemologist), winner of the GIII Monmouth Oaks last summer, ran a strong third at 21-1 in the GI Cotillion S., but failed to find the mark in her next five outings after being transferred to trainer Richard Baltas. Given over to Bill Mott, the New Jersey-bred produced a lifetime-best try last out, winning the GIII Molly Pitcher S. with a 102 Beyer. She's a Julie (Elusive Quality) goes for a La Troienne repeat, but faces a much tougher field in this year's renewal.