Very few people have the opportunity to live out their childhood dreams, but trainer Brad Cox counts himself among the lucky ones. The 32-year-old Cox grew up just blocks from the Twin Spires and always desired to become a successful trainer at Churchill Downs.
With seven wins at the Spring Meet from just 17 starters, Cox’s dreams have become reality.
“My dad used to bring me to the races here all the time and I was hooked,” Cox said. “I was always fascinated by the horses and everything that goes into training. I always knew what I wanted to do.
“This is my home track so winning here is very special. Winning here means more to me than winning anywhere else.”
Cox got his start on the backside walking hots for trainers Frankie Brothers and Jinks Fires. After graduating from Iroquois High School in 1998, Cox decided against enrolling in college and went to work as an assistant to trainer Jimmy Baker. He was with Baker for more than two years before joining the stable trainer Dallas Stewart, where he stayed for nearly five years.
“When Dallas worked for Wayne Lukas, Wayne would say he was going to the University of Wayne Lukas,” Cox said. “So, Dallas always told me I was going to the University of Dallas Stewart.”
Cox went out on his own in December of 2004, but his big break arrived a few years ago when he received a call from Richard Papiese of Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc.
“He called me and asked if I would take some horses to Delaware for them,” Cox said. “They wanted someone who had experience at Delaware and I had gone there the year prior and had success.
“They were running a lot of horses in Delaware and Chicago, but only ran a couple at Churchill Downs. Last year, we decided to be based here for the first time and they won the owners title (in the Spring Meet).”
Midwest Thoroughbreds is in contention for back-to-back Spring Meet owner titles. They are tied for first with John Oxley and Paula Haughey’s PTK LLC.
“Last spring they won the owners title with eight wins and halfway through this meet he already has seven,” Cox said.
Through Saturday, Midwest Thoroughbreds led the nation in 2012 victories with 268 wins with several trainers at tracks throughout North America. Midwest Thoroughbreds led current runner-up Billy, Donna and Justin Hays by 175 victories at the start of Sunday’s racing.
Cox trains 27 horses for Midwest Thoroughbreds.
TOP ‘DOWNS AFTER DARK’ STAKES PERFORMERS DOING WELL ON SUNDAY – Connections of the top performers in Saturday night’s “Downs After Dark” stakes tripleheader of the Winning Colors (GIII), Aristides (GIII) and Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) confirmed Sunday that their horses came out of those races well.
“Island Bound (winner of Winning Colors) came out of the race perfect,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “She shipped to Skylight Training Center this morning. We’re going to enjoy this win for a few days and then I’ll talk to (owner) Bob (Manfuso) and we’ll pick a spot for her.”
Trainer Bret Calhoun said his trio of Beat the Blues (second), Speedacious (third) and Gleaming (fourth) all exited the Winning Colors in “great” shape.
The 3-year-old Good Deed, who faced older rivals for the first time in the Winning Colors, came home fifth in the race in as the 2-1 favorite.
“She came out of the race fine,” trainer Steve Margolis said. “We’re a little disappointed and don’t really have an excuse.”
Padua Stables’ Rothko won the Aristides (GIII) by 2 ½ lengths and was in good form Sunday, according to trainer Steve Asmussen. Rothko will be pointed to the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows on June 29.
Pattons Creek Farm’s Will’s Wildcat finished second to Rothko.
“He came out of the race great,” trainer Jimmy Baker said. “We were all really proud of the way he ran last night.”
No plans have been made for where Will’s Wildcat will make his next start.
In the Early Times Mint Julep, Catesby Clay’s Bizzy Caroline won by a neck over Lally Stable’s Heavenly Landing.
Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Ken McPeek, said Bizzy Caroline came out of the race in good order. No plans have been made for her next start.
“Heavenly Landing came out of the race perfect,” trainer Eddie Kenneally said. “It’s too bad she didn’t hold on because she ran a winning race. We will wait and see about where to go next. There are a lot of options for her that we will look at.”
No fewer than two mares competed in the Early Times Mint Julep while in foal. Ravi’s Song finished fourth while in foal to Distorted Humor and Snow Top Mountain finished sixth while in foal to Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Blame.
“She (Ravi’s Song) ran a credible race,” trainer Carl Bowman said. “She came back in good order. We’ll keep running her through September.”
“Snow Top Mountain is fine,” trainer Tom Proctor said. “She was coming off a layoff and probably needed a race. She also likes the turf to be firmer than it was. I’ll probably run her one or two more times. I’m thinking about the Modesty ($200,000 handicap at Arlington Park on July 14).”
JOCKEY CRUZ WILL RETURN TO CALDER – Following his three mounts at Churchill Downs on Sunday, jockey Manny Cruz will return to Florida’s Calder Race Course, where he is the all-time leading rider with 1,956 victories at the Miami track.
On Saturday night at Churchill Downs, Cruz guided three horses to victory, including Bizzy Caroline in the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII). Cruz also was aboard Bizzy Caroline when she won the Regret (GIII) at Churchill Downs last spring. Other major victories at the Louisville track for Cruz include the 2011 Dogwood (GIII) aboard Salty Strike and the 2011 Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) aboard My Baby Baby. All four of his graded stakes wins at Churchill Downs came for trainer Ken McPeek.
Cruz rode his first full meet at Churchill Downs last spring and finished fifth in the jockey standings with 24 victories. The 42-year-old native of Ninas Gerais, Brazil rode eight winners at Churchill Downs last fall, tying him for ninth in the rider standings.
His three wins Saturday night improved his total to 12 for the current Spring Meet. He is tied for sixth in the race for leading rider.
“I really want to thank Ken McPeek and all the trainers at Churchill Downs for all the opportunities they gave me,” Cruz said. “I would love to stay here, but I need to be close to my sons (who are in Miami). They need me.”
Cruz said he will arrive in Miami on Sunday night. He is named on four horses at Calder on Thursday.
MILESTONE WATCH – Trainer Ken McPeek became just the 13th trainer in Churchill Downs history to reach the 300-win milestone when Bizzy Caroline won the Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, milestones are looming for a quartet of Churchill Downs-based trainers and jockeys.
Trainer Paul McGee. a native of Louisville, is only one win shy of the 300-win milestone. Trainer Dallas Stewart is four wins from his 200th victory at Churchill Downs
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan is seven wins from the 400-win mark, while jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. is only three wins away from his 200th Churchill Downs victory.
WORKTAB – Zayat Stables LLC’s Nehro, second by a nose to Alternation in the Pimlico Special (GIII), breezed five furlongs on the fast main track at Churchill Downs in 1:02.60 for trainer Steve Asmussen. The work ranked 15th out of 28 at the distance. Asmussen said Sunday morning Nehro is nominated to the $400,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), but no final decision has been made as to whether he will run. …
Also working from the Asmussen barn Sunday were Zayat Stables LLC’s Riley Tucker, winner of the 2010 Aristides (GIII) at Churchill Downs, and 2010 Iroquois (GIII) winner Astrology. Riley Tucker, who was scratched from Saturday night’s Aristides (GIII), breezed five furlongs in 1:02.80 and Astrology breezed six furlongs in 1:12. …
Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s Afleeting Lady, runner-up to Arena Elvira in the Falls City Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs in November, breezed four furlongs on the main track in :51.20 for trainer Dale Romans. The worked ranked 35th of 43 at the distance. Afleeting Lady is a half-sister to recent Met Mile (GI) winner Shackleford. …
Bourbon Lane Stable and Wayne Lynn’s Bourbon Courage, most recently fourth in The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (GIII) at Churchill Downs, breezed four furlongs in :48.40 for trainer Kellyn Gorder. It was the fifth fastest work of 43 at the distance. …
Lantern Hill Farm LLC’s Motor City, winner of last fall’s Iroquois (GIII) at Churchill Downs, breezed four furlongs in :48.40 for trainer Ian Wilkes. …
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2013, and its 2012 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 28-July 1. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.