HRN Original Blog:
Setting the Pace

The time's right for Monomoy Girl to try Pegasus World Cup

Three-year-old filly division leader Monomoy Girl capped off a memorable year in winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last Saturday, and she will receive an Eclipse Award soon for a stellar season that included a Kentucky Oaks victory as well. Overall, the daughter of Tapizar won five Grade 1 races, with the only loss coming in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx Racing where she crossed the wire first ahead of Midnight Bisou. 

Monomoy Girl earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure for the Distaff win, while TimeformUS gave a 122. A roughly 20-point difference in scale exists between Beyer and TimeformUS, so TimeformUS rates her higher by about five points.

The connections indicated the Jan. 26 Pegasus World Cup (G1) is a possible next start for Monomoy Girl, and that will cause some controversy and debate. On turf, it is not uncommon for females to face males, but the practice on dirt is seen less often.

If they go the Pegasus route with Monomoy Girl, though, a couple of factors will work in her favor, making the race worth a shot.

Trainer Brad Cox says the speed-favoring Gulfstream track "fits her style," plus Monomoy Girl is a proven at the distance.

In American dirt racing, 1 1/4 miles is considered the gold standard. But with the Pegasus a furlong shorter, it encourages milers to take a shot. The same applies to a top-level filly.

The connections of Monomoy Girl already passed on the 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes at Saratoga last August, so if the race was any longer, she would definitely not run.

However, Monomoy Girl won three different Grade 1 races at 1 1/8 miles this year, so the Pegasus distance should fit her quite well.

Although the bias is exaggerated sometimes, Gulfstream’s dirt surface is seen as speed-favoring, and Monomoy Girl loves to show early pace. When Arrogate won in 2017, he stalked closely from third, and Gun Runner successfully pressed the leader Collected this year. 



Monomoy Girl’s running style fits around that range, as she followed the pacesetter Wonder Gadot early in the Distaff before striking on the far turn for the win.

Also, the older horse division headed by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate is currently nothing special, and the 3-year-olds in that race failed to hit the board.

The first point is arguable, but even though he won the Classic, Accelerate has looked about 80 or 90 percent of his form earlier this year when he rattled off four straight TimeformUS Speed Figures above 130 from March to August. The streak climaxed with a 137 while winning the Pacific Classic (G1) by more than 12 lengths. He looked invincible.

In his last two 2018 starts, Accelerate earned a 122 when taking the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) in a relatively-weak looking effort compared to the first half of 2018. He then improved to a 127 in winning the Classic, a race for which most horses are fully tuned.

Even though Monomoy Girl only scored a 122 in the Distaff, she earned a 126 in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1). Accelerate’s numbers are not out of reach.

In addition, there is no guarantee Monomoy Girl’s form will last. Think about all the talented 3-year-old fillies who lose form as a 4-year-old. The most recent example is Abel Tasman, who threw up a few good 2018 races before recently losing interest.

There is no evidence of Monomoy Girl taking a wrong turn, but it can happen at any time with females. With the Pegasus coming up in January, it is better to take the risk against males now when the iron is hot in a $9 million race on a speed-favoring track.

As a final point, females run against males on a consistent basis in Europe, and no one finds the practice strange. Of course, some people say turf is the great equalizer. Females do not run against males on dirt often enough to know for sure. 

Earlier this year, the 6-year-old mare Stellar Wind actually ran a good race to finish sixth in the Pegasus World Cup. She got blocked at a critical point too when rallying. Future Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile runner-up Seeking the Soul only finished a little more than two lengths ahead.

The point is, Stellar Wind fit in the race, even though she lost. She beat nice horses including Collected, Sharp Azteca, Giant Expectations and Toast of New York. If not for the trouble encountered, completing the superfecta in fourth was possible.

As the 3-year-old filly champion who beat older females in the Distaff, Monomoy Girl fits in the Pegasus. There is little left to prove against her own gender. 

With a favorable distance, speed-favoring track and weak older-horse division, the time is right for Monomoy Girl to try males in the richest American dirt race.

 

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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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