Florent Geroux’s second stint as a riding regular at Oaklawn figures to go better than his first. Much better.
Geroux was fresh off his first career riding title at Hawthorne when he made his Oaklawn debut in 2012, presumably as the go-to rider for Chicago-based powerhouse Midwest Thoroughbreds (Richard and Karen Papiese). Midwest was Oaklawn’s leading owner in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It teased Dan Lasater’s then-single-season Oaklawn record (48 victories) in 2012 before finishing with 42.
Geroux, trainer Roger Brueggemann and Midwest had teamed to sweep the titles at the 2011 Hawthorne fall meet. But with Brueggemann remaining in the Chicago area, Geroux rode only four horses for the far-reaching, multi-trainer Midwest Thoroughbreds operation during the 2012 Oaklawn meeting and quietly left Hot Springs after going winless with only seven mounts.
“We just decided to go back to Chicago because we didn’t have the business we were promised to have,” Geroux said during training hours Wednesday morning at Oaklawn. “With Midwest Thoroughbreds, it was back and forth. Sometimes you get hired and sometimes you stay on the bench. It’s always been like that. But through my career, I can’t complain. They just helped me a lot and really helped my career to go to another level. It was mainly because of him (Brueggemann), winning a lot of races on the Chicago circuit and winning the Breeders’ Cup with Work All Week and the Arlington Million with The Pizza Man.”
Geroux did make an important business contact during his brief stint at the 2012 Oaklawn meeting, riding four horses for Brad Cox, then one of Midwest’s trainers employed in Hot Springs, and billed a career “up and comer.”
“When I came here, it was just different trainers,” Geroux said. “The only one who helped me was Brad.”
Almost a decade later, Geroux has returned to Oaklawn as a regular, more specifically as the go-to rider for Cox, a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding trainer in 2020.
Normally, Geroux, 34, winters at Fair Grounds, where he has recorded 506 victories since 2013. But Oaklawn’s lucrative purse structure (roughly $600,000 daily projection) and Cox’s top-shelf barn had Geroux getting on horses for the first time this season at Oaklawn on a crisp, cloudy Wednesday morning.
“Brad and I, we talked and we decided where was best for me to go and that was mainly here,” said Geroux, whose 36 victories ranked fourth in this season’s Fair Grounds standings through Tuesday. “Of course, it was mainly because of him. At the Fair Grounds, I have a lot of business, too. I have more business there because people expect me to ride there. Here, it’s different, but I’m hoping to have a good meet. With the help of Brad, I think it’s going to be very beneficial.”
In contrast to 2012, Geroux is named on 12 horses during the first two days of racing (Friday and Saturday), including seven for Cox. Geroux and Cox have teamed for 285 victories since 2014, a collaboration highlighted by Eclipse Award winner and two-time Breeders’ Cup Distaff champion Monomoy Girl.
“We work well together,” said Cox, Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer in 2020 and a dominant figure the last few years at Fair Grounds. “He’s done a fantastic job for us for years now. Just thought we would start at Fair Grounds and see how it goes. It’s going well, but I think with the purse money and the day-to-day racing being so good at Oaklawn, it probably just makes more sense for him to be at Oaklawn, as opposed to the Fair Grounds, once it starts.”
Among Geroux’s first scheduled mounts for Cox is Caddo River in Friday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds. Geroux said he’s anxious to reunite with Monomoy Girl, who is scheduled to make her 2021 debut in the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Feb. 15 at Oaklawn. The Bayakoa is a major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 17.
“Very excited,” Geroux said. “It’s one of the main reasons, too, I’m here. Because of the COVID situation, you don’t know how you’re going to be able to travel back and forth. She’s supposed to run twice, once in the Bayakoa and once in the Apple Blossom. That’s one of the main reasons why I’m here.”
Geroux has more than 1,700 victories and $108 million in purse earnings in his career. In addition to Monomoy Girl, Geroux was the regular rider of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner. Geroux also won the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) aboard Work All Week and the 2015 Arlington Million (G1) aboard The Pizza Man for Brueggemann and Midwest Thoroughbreds. Work All Week, the country’s champion male sprinter of 2014, and Gun Runner were both Oaklawn stakes winners.
Geroux, who was born in France, recorded his first United States victory in 2008. He has 11 career Oaklawn victories.
(from Oaklawn news release)