Brad Cox’s first appearance in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) may have produced some heartache, but the weekend ended on a promising note for the trainer’s stable.
A little less than 24 hours after Mandaloun finished second in the Run for the Roses and favored Essential Quality was fourth, Cox found himself in the enviable position of having another older female runner who just might be capable of making some noise in the division’s top races.
Vault notched her initial graded stakes triumph May 2 as she rallied from last in a field of six to take the $200,000 Ruffian Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at Belmont Park.
“It was a nice end to the weekend,” Cox said by phone from his Kentucky base.
The 5-year-old daughter of Jump Start has taken some big strides forward after opening 2021 by dwelting at the start of the Jan. 23 Pippin Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Since then she was second and first in allowance company, both at Oaklawn, which convinced Cox to ship her north to New York for the Ruffian.
“She got a big upgrade in her résumé with a grade 2 win today,” Cox said about the mare owned by Madaket Stables, Barlar, Kueber Racing, and Little Red Feather Racing. “I got in a little hurry with her last year and was running her back too soon. The owners were patient and let me give her some time off and they were rewarded today. I think she can be a factor in the division’s big races.”
Choosing which one of those races to target will be complicated as Cox also trains the multiple grade 1 winners Monomoy Girl , a two-time champion, and 2020 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Shedaresthedevil .
“We’ll see how she comes out of this and take a look at things,” Cox said.
The Ruffian brought back some bad memories as Vault bobbled at the start and broke last and trailed the pacesetting Gibberish by about six lengths after a quarter-mile in :23.57, though jockey Joel Rosario was not flustered.
“She was comfortable and I was hoping she would come with her run and she did,” Rosario said. “I stayed inside and things worked out perfectly.”
As Vault lingered at the back of the pack, 6-5 favorite Lake Avenue grabbed the lead leaving the quarter pole in the one-turn mile and seemed poised to take command. But the Godolphin filly went wide entering the stretch and the grade 2 winner abruptly weakened after leading by a half-length at the eighth pole.
E. V. Racing Stable’s Water White assumed the lead at that point, but when Lake Avenue drifted and took 3-1 second choice Our Super Freak with her, it created a huge opening in the middle of the track that Vault scooted through and surged to a 1 3/4-length victory.
Final time was 1:35.81 for Vault, who paid $8.80 to win.
Lake Avenue finished fourth.
The win was the seventh in 21 starts for Vault, a daughter of the French Deputy mare Di’s Delight, and pushed her earnings to $419,414.
She also brought down the curtain on a memorable weekend.
“I guess,” said New York-based assistant trainer Dustin Dugas who saddled Vault for Cox, “you could say this was the cherry on top of the weekend.”