Cox-Trained Zozos Puts Three-Race Winning Streak On The Line In Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes
August 17, 2023
There’s no doubt that some class relief has been a contributor to the three-race winning streak that Zozos will carry into Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park, but Blake Cox says there’s another key factor to the colt’s recent success.
“I think part of the reason for him being in such good form now is we started putting him into the game a little more,” said Cox, an assistant to his father, Brad Cox. “This winter he was dropping out of his races early and we found out that we’ve got to get him more involved early.
“I think he got some confidence with it and he has been able to roll off three wins in a row because of that.”
Zozos heads a field of six 3-year-olds and up for the 88th edition of the Iselin Stakes, which will be contested at a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt.
Florent Geroux is listed to ride the Kentucky-bred son of Munnings. Barry and Joni Butzow own and bred Zozos, who is named after a restaurant in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the couple have a home.
Zozos, a 4-year-old colt, enters Saturday 6-for-9 lifetime, with his only three losses in graded stakes races. He was second to Epicenter in the 2022 Louisiana Derby, then was 10th in the Kentucky Derby. He started his current campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes on Jan. 21.
He has yet to win a graded stakes, though he has reeled off two straight stakes victories.
“Talent-wise he has graded stakes ability,” said Cox. “I think he will have a graded stakes next to his name eventually. Hopefully it will be Saturday.”
Zozos showed immediate ability, Cox said, winning at first asking last year after being unraced at 2. He followed his debut win with a 10¼-length romp in a $100,000 optional claimer in his next start at Oaklawn Park.
“He was pretty good from the start,” said Cox. “He came to us in New Orleans as a 2-year-old and he showed some real ability. He worked with (2022 TVG.com Haskell Stakes winner) Cyberknife before he ever ran a race and he was hanging with him in the mornings.
“He has proven to be a very nice horse.”
With his three-race winning streak all occurring in front-running fashion, Cox doesn’t expect much to change Saturday.
“We’ll see how he breaks and where Florent wants to put him but he should be on or near the lead early,” Cox said.
Though the focus is on the Iselin for now, Cox is looking at the $300,000 Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept. 30 as the pivotal spot in Zozos’ campaign. That race is a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 5 at Keeneland.
Zozos has won his last two starts at a mile. He is 2-for-3 at the Iselin distance of a mile and a sixteenth.
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