Trainer Brad Cox was pretty anxious to get career win number 1,000, but the defending two-time leading trainer at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots finally did just that in the fifth race on Sunday afternoon with Play On.
“It seemed like over the last few weeks we had a hard time getting there, but it was big to finally get it done,” Cox said by phone from Churchill Downs. “When you first start, you don't think it's ever going to happen. It takes a while to get going. I'm glad it's behind us. It's a great achievement. Thanks to the crew, our assistants, foreman, grooms and exercise riders. It's definitely not a one man show at all. There are a lot of people who work extremely hard. It's not just me, it's a team effort. I'm proud of everyone involved and what they give to the organization. Now we'll start working on getting to two thousand.”
A native of Louisville, Ky., Cox grew up just a couple of blocks away from Churchill Downs in Louisville's South End and began working on the backside for trainers Jimmy Baker and Burt Kessinger before becoming an assistant for trainer Dallas Stewart. He went out on his own in 2005 and has enjoyed a banner year this year with six Grade I victories, including the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders' Cup Distaff with likely Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Monomoy Girl. He is the fifth leading trainer in North America in earnings and fourth in wins. Cox campaigns a large string of horses at Fair Grounds during the winter months, where he has been the leading trainer for the past two years.
While Cox is still overseeing his string of horses at his Churchill Downs home base, his assistant Ricky Giannini saddled Play On to the trainer's milestone victory.
“It's always exciting,” Giannini said. “It's been a steady climb to the top so hopefully we get a thousand more.”
Owned by Klein Racing, Play On is a full sister to graded stakes winner Will Call who won the Grade III Twin Spires Turf Sprint on Churchill Downs' Kentucky Derby undercard. The 2-year-old daughter of Country Day was making her turf debut in the second start of her career.
“They don't look a lot alike but they both are horses that are obviously very nice,” Cox said. “Will Call broke his maiden earlier but he was precocious. She showed some ability on the dirt and we gave her a shot. She ran well that day and showed speed but got a little tired late after that race so we thought we should target a turf sprint. She has a lot to accomplish, but she has a bright future.”
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