When the weather gets bad, the locals are a sure bet. At least, they were on a windy, wet and chilly Kentucky Oaks Friday under the twin spires at Churchill Downs.
Churchill-based trainers captured each of the five graded stakes on the Kentucky Oaks Day undercard, including back-to-back victories from Louisville-native Brad Cox.
“This is awesome. Growing up two blocks outside the back gate, this is my home,” Cox said after taking the Grade 3 Twin Spires Turf Sprint with Green Mask and Grade 2 Eight Belles with Benner Island in less than an hour’s time. “I don’t know if it’s hit me yet. Green Mask showed up today and finally got it done and then this filly (Benner Island). We expected her to run big today.”
Louisiana-bred Big World got things rolling for the locals and trainer Tom Amoss in the Grade 1 La Troienne. The 4-year-old Custom For Carlos filly scored the first Grade 1 victory for her trainer since 2000, when he saddled Heritage Of Gold to a pair of wins at the top level for the only other two of the conditioner’s career.
“I can’t thank Maggi Moss enough for giving me an opportunity with her,” Amoss said. “She really is responsible for buying her; not me. She told me a lot about her and we’ve just tried to put her in the right spots. Maggi couldn’t be here today but I know she would say that this is one of the biggest moments of her career.”
Moss, who has won three leading owner titles at Churchill Downs, earned her second Grade 1 victory after taking the 2012 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga Race Course with Pennsylvania-bred So Many Ways.
Following the La Troienne, it was local trainer Ian Wilkes’ turn, as the front-running Bird Song captured the Grade 2 Alysheba by 1 1/2 lengths over Honorable Duty. Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Bird Song’s win was his second graded stakes victory of the year, and third career score at Churchill for the 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song.
Cox’s back-to-back wins followed the Alysheba, then a pair of Mark Casse trainees finished 1-2 in the Grade 3 Edgewood Stakes to wrap up the undercard stakes. Both owned by John Oxley, La Coronel rallied late to take the Edgewood with stablemate Dream Dancing coming on strong and a half-length behind as the runner-up.
“I said at the wire, ‘Maybe I should have run just one,’ ” Casse said. “I was going to run La Coronel against colts (in Saturday’s American Turf) but she drew the bad post (No. 11). She ended up paying for it (No. 12) but she was so good, she overcame it. I never intended to run her today, but today is a nice day. We want to take her to Ascot, and I thought about trying her with a little give in the ground. She’s a very good horse.
“Dream Dancing ran great. Julien (Leparoux) last time said, ‘I’m going to beat her next time.’ I said, ‘I don’t know about that.’ She’s a very nice filly, too. We’re looking at the Belmont Oaks (July 8). I just got to figure out how to get there. Dream Dancing will like a mile and a quarter.”
Although Mark Casse’s home base of training operations is in Canada, his son, Norman, is a University of Louisville alum and serves as the elder Casse’s main assistant. Norman is based at Churchill and looks after a string of talented Casse horses in Kentucky.