(Essential Quality / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:

Even an Eclipse Award-winning trainer can’t be in two places at the same time, especially when those two places are roughly 7,500 miles apart.

That’s the dilemma facing trainer Brad Cox after Oaklawn announced early Wednesday afternoon that it was canceling racing Saturday, Sunday and Monday because of impending winter weather. Monday’s Presidents’ Day card was to have featured the 2021 debuts of Cox’s two champions – Essential Quality in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds and Monomoy Girl in the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares. Both 1 1/16-mile races will now be run Feb. 20.

Essential Quality and Monomoy Girl, Cox said, will still run in the rescheduled races. But the postponement means the Southwest and Bayakoa will now fall on the same day as the world’s richest race, the $20 million Saudi Cup, in Saudi Arabia. And, Cox will have one of the favorites there, too, in Knicks Go, who began his ascent to the top of the country’s older dirt male division with a powerful allowance victory last February at Oaklawn.

Arkansas or the Middle East? Cox planned on being in both places before the postponement. Now, obviously, he can only be in one.

“Still trying to figure that out,” Cox said late Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know. I know where I’d like to be, but I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it. It’s tough. We’ll see how it goes.”

Cox, the 2020 Eclipse Award winner as the country’s outstanding trainer, said Oaklawn’s postponement shouldn’t impact any 11th-hour preparation of Essential Quality and Monomoy Girl for their respective races. Both horses have been based this winter at Fair Grounds, along with their stablemate Goin’ Good, who is now slated to run in the Dixie Bell Stakes Sunday, Feb. 21 after that race was rescheduled from Feb. 13.

“We’ll breeze Monomoy and Essential Quality here,” Cox said. “Goin’ Good will breeze again here. I don’t think it’s a negative at all, as far as moving forward, with any of my horses.”

Post positions for the Southwest, Bayakoa and $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles will be drawn Sunday. The Razorback was moved to Feb. 20 after originally scheduled to be run Saturday.

Cox is scheduled to have starters in all four races. In addition to Essential Quality, Monomoy Girl and Goin’ Good, Cox said he still plans to run millionaire Owendale in the Razorback. Cox said he plans to run Wells Bayou, originally entered in the Razorback, in the $200,000 Mineshaft Stakes (G3) Saturday at Fair Grounds. Owendale has been based this winter at Oaklawn.

“Everything’s a go,” Cox said. “Anything that we had, as far as runners, we won’t deviate from our race schedule.”

Unbeaten Essential Quality (3 for 3) earned an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 2-year-old male after winning the $400,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) Oct. 3 at Keeneland and $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 6 at Keeneland in his last start. The Southwest is Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby points races. Essential Quality (30) tops the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard, according to Churchill Downs.

Monomoy Girl (13 of 15 overall) is a two-time Eclipse Award winner. She was the country’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2018 and champion older dirt female of 2020. Monomoy Girl is a two-time winner (2018 and 2020) of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). The Bayakoa is the second of three major local preps for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 17.

Owendale had been installed the 2-1 program favorite for the Razorback, with Goin’ Good the 5-2 second choice for the Dixie Belle. Post positions for both races were originally drawn Feb. 6. Cox said he still plans to run locally based Sekani and The Mary Rose in the $150,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes for Arkansas-bred female sprinters, 3 and up, also on Feb. 21 at Oaklawn. The race was originally Feb. 20.

Cox is based at Fair Grounds. He also has divisions at Oaklawn and in south Florida, New York and Kentucky. Cox’s Oaklawn string is overseen by assistant Jorgito Abrego.

Finish Lines

Shedaresthedevil shipped late Wednesday to Fair Grounds because of severe winter weather that is scheduled to strike Oaklawn this weekend, trainer Brad Cox said. Cox said the move will allow the 2020 Kentucky Oaks winner and finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly to train without major weather-related interruptions. Cox said the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares March 13 at Oaklawn is a target for Shedaresthedevil, but added it’s touch and go to make the 1 1/16 mile race. Shedaresthedevil has worked once this year (Feb. 1 at Oaklawn) in advance of her 4-year-old debut. “Just trying to get some fitness in her,” Cox said. Co-owned by Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, Shedaresthedevil won the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) last year at Oaklawn. … Cox said Caddo River remains on track to make his next start in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds March 13 at Oaklawn. A homebred for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, Caddo River was a record-setting 10 ¼-length winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 22 at Oaklawn in his last start. Caddo River returned to the work tab with an easy half-mile breeze Feb. 5 at Oaklawn. “He’s doing great,” Cox said. “Probably going to miss a work this week, but his race is not until, really, the middle of next month, so I don’t feel like we’re in any trouble as far as missing a race or anything.” … Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen did not win a race Sunday at Oaklawn, snapping his streak at 10 consecutive race days with at least once local victory. Asmussen entered Thursday with a meet-high 15 victories as he seeks his record-tying 11th Oaklawn training title. Asmussen was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.