News and STORIES

Taraz Rises In Status With Impressive Victories

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Friday January 31, 2020
Taraz has scored her only two starts by a combined margin of 18 3/4 lengths, causing trainer Brad Cox to begin speaking about the 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). 

The Juddmonte Farms homebred daughter of Into Mischief is at the top of the field of five 3-year-old fillies for the $150,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 1 at Oaklawn Park.

Slight Possibility of the Kentucky Derby

Cox has said that while the 11 1/4-length victory in the Dec. 21 Letellier Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots was impressive, the Kentucky Derby is just a slight possibility as of now. 

"It's very early in the season, but the Triple Crown noms were due last weekend, and we were going through the horses a few weeks ago, and I spoke with Garrett O'Rourke from Juddmonte, and I said, 'You know, it's 600 bucks. She's definitely worth nominating,'" Cox said.

"Obviously, people are going to see that and think we're pointing her to the Derby or the Preakness (G1). And that's not really the case. We're pointing her toward the Martha Washington, bottom line.

"It's one step at a time, one race at a time. But I didn't feel like, right now, with what she's showing, it's that far-fetched."

That Martha Washington awards 17 points to the top four finishers on a scale of 10-4-2-1. Those points go towards a start in the May 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1). The two-turn mile will be Taraz's first test beyond 6 1/2 furlongs, and she will break from post 3 with jockey Florent Geroux.

"She's done everything right since she arrived from the farm," Cox said. "She obviously has a lot of speed, and she's a big filly that we're hoping can carry her speed around two turns, and we're going to find out on Saturday."

First Stakes Winner From Silk Route

Taraz is a third-generation Juddmonte-bred filly, and she is the first stakes winner out of the Silk Route dam. Silk Trade is her juvenile full brother, and she has a yearling half-sister by Flintshire. 

Silk Route has yet to produce a big contender, and she only had two wins and three thirds from nine starts with $104,104. However, the mare has an impressive pedigree. 

"Her dam was an OK racehorse, nothing great. She was a big mare as well," he said. "(She) had a few foals that didn't live up to expectations, so going into breaking (Taraz), we were somewhat tempered in our expectations.

"By the time we put a saddle on her back, that's when the expectations started to grow a little bit because she looked really, really well under tack, and riders started to get off her and — especially as an early 2-year-old before we even worked her — comment on what a lovely mover she was and how nice she felt."

Taraz's fourth dam is Epsom Oaks (G1) runner-up Where You Lead, the dam of Group 3 winner I Will Follow, who is also responsible for multiple grade 1 winner sire Rainbow Quest.

Slightly Dangerous

Juddmonte owner Khalid bin Abdullah purchased Slightly Dangerous, the daughter of Where you Lead, as a 3-year-old after scoring the Fred Darling Stakes (G3). 

Slightly Dangerous produced Group 1-winning sires Warning and Commander in Chief, along with Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap (G1T) winner Yashmak. 

"She has a very turf-centric pedigree going back to Slightly Dangerous and Jibe, but her dam actually won on the dirt at Churchill Downs and won well there, so I don't think we were ever doubtful about putting her on the dirt," O'Rourke said.

"What she's done so far is very encouraging, and we don't want to get ahead of ourselves yet because, basically, she's won a maiden and a listed race … (but) obviously, she's not taken a wrong step yet," he added. "And she works very well in the mornings, so she's easy to get excited about, but we've been down that road with a lot of horses, some of which live up to expectations and some that don't live up to expectations.

"She was always a big filly, but she was never awkward big. She was always well-developed big. She has an Into Mischief rear end on her, powerful and muscular. But I think she has the size and scope of Empire Maker. 

"Usually, you do matings like that where you have this perfect idea of what your dream product should look like, and rarely, only about five percent of the time do they come out looking like that. But she definitely was one that came out looking good."

Cox also entered Flurry Racing Stables, atar Racing, and Big Aut Farms' Shedaresthedevil, who took third in the Sorrento Stakes (G2) at Del Mar. Her most recent start was a second-place finish in the Oct. 13 Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita Park. 

Also running will be the two top weight fillies of 122 pounds High On Gin and the Steve Asmussen-trained Princesinha Julia, as well as O Seraphina.