After an incredibly illustrious career that spanned years in a time when it is common to see budding talent in the racing world retire when they have only begun to come into their own, Monomoy Girl walked onto a van to begin the journey from Brad Cox’s barn at Churchill Downs to Spendthrift Farm in Lexington. But she gave every impression of not wanting to leave the racing environment, hesitating at the barn entrance and even retreating momentarily. It added a bit to the poignancy to the curtain call of her racing days, because a quick look at her stats shows if ever a horse loved to race it was her. Further study reinforces that, given that her competitive fire didn’t dim from one season to the next, and even long layoffs after setbacks didn’t alter her stepping right back into competition like she hadn’t left, most notably in 2020.
And it is a testament to the care of everyone involved with her, as has been noted elsewhere, that giving her breaks from racing contributed to her being able to stay at the top of her game, in addition to how racing was in her veins like one would hope it would be with any promising horse that arrives in a barn.
While 2021 did not play out as hoped, it didn’t matter, for it was wonderful to see the mare who had become known around her barn as the Queen return to the track.
She last ran in April, on the comeback trail once more after another break for minor setbacks. While she wasn’t going to be in the gate for the Breeders’ Cup, I eagerly awaited the news of where she would race and hoped it would be close to me. I had followed her career since she was a 3-year-old awaiting her turn to run in the Ashland at Keeneland and see if that led her to Kentucky Oaks glory, which it did. It was thrilling to see her victorious in her first race after her layoff last year, coincidentally on my birthday, and then finish that season with a resounding Breeders’ Cup Distaff win. Then Spendthrift bought her at auction and worked out an arrangement to lease a portion of her 2021 racing rights to My Racehorse to make available to shareholders. I jumped at that chance to be even in a small way involved with the horse I’d admired for years. And that is why I couldn’t wait for her next race this fall, to try to have the perks My Racehorse offers for shareholders that would probably mean more with Monomoy Girl than any other horse, like lotteries to be in the paddock prior to her race and other race day hospitality.
But then, it was over. While it was unfortunate her attempted return was cut short by a non-displaced fracture, the main takeaway was she would not need surgery and her connections did the right thing by her as they always did. Though they noted she may have been able to come back from that, she had raced longer than many of her contemporaries ever did, and she didn’t owe anyone anything. There is a moment, when retirement is sudden, that adjustment from hopes of what might be achieved yet have to be slowly released. It is bittersweet. But above all, there is gratitude for seeing such a bright star.
On a balmy fall day, when the wind blew briskly through the trees, Monomoy Girl walked forward to the van she had initially hesitated to approach. I have no doubt she had felt that competitive fire again and was not ready to walk onto another van without a race to help quell it. And when I saw that, I thought of the line from the song “Angel from Montgomery”:
“Just give me the one thing that I can hold on to”
That has been the racetrack for Monomoy Girl, and for those who admire her, know her, and care for her, she has been there “to hold on to,” about as sure a thing as the racetrack can have. And maybe in a uncertain world facing a pandemic, “one thing to hold on to” means even more.
This is not meant to sound like a eulogy for the star mare, though it may have veered to that territory. It is more that the emotion of seeing her leave the track caught me off guard for how she was reluctant to go. It is not a requiem for Monomoy Girl, at all. It is a gentle goodbye to the career she had.
She arrived at Spendthrift in the afternoon, looking phenomenal, fit and gleaming with health and appearing to crave the grass before posing tall and proud like the Queen she became known as. It will be a beautiful retirement, in the lush pastures and in the sun, running for her own whim.
And I look forward to meeting her when she acclimates, as Spendthrift has graciously offered to those who bought lease shares through My Racehorse. The curtain rises on the next chapter, which will include an Into Mischief foal if all goes as planned.