Having the started the day two wins shy of 1,000 for his career, Cox found himself one away from that mark following the nine-furlong River City thanks to the exploits of a couple of his more reliable charges. After tracking stablemate Big Changes through leisurely early fractions, Flurry Racing Stables' Mr. Misunderstood fought past his friendly rival and edged clear late to take the River City by half a length and remain unbeaten in four tries over the Churchill Downs turf.
Even before the River City field scratched down to five horses, the Cox duo looked to be the wall the rest of the challengers would have to go through. Once the gates popped, Cox indeed got to watch his boys have their way with things before fighting it out amongst themselves.
As Julien Leparoux guided Big Changes past the stands for the first time 1 1/2 lengths in front through an opening quarter-mile in :25.88, Mr. Misunderstood rated along the hedge in third under Florent Geroux, with Sir Dudley Digges to his outside. They would keep that formation intact down the backside past the half-mile in :52.52 and entering the far turn, but, when Big Changes reached the head of the lane, Mr. Misunderstood angled out and took aim at his barnmate.
"(Big Changes) was the horse to beat, so I just followed his shadow, and when it was time to go, I tipped my horse out," Geroux said. "His turn of foot is just very decisive, and when I ask him to go, he always gives 100% of himself. He was able to put away Big Changes pretty easy."
To his credit, Big Changes didn't fold and kept battling the final 100 yards, but he couldn't stop Mr. Misunderstood from earning his third career graded stakes win—all coming beneath the Twin Spires.
"He was training really well coming into this," Cox said of Mr. Misunderstood. "We thought about giving him a break after the Shadwell (Turf Mile, where he finished sixth), but he bounced out of that race really well, so we thought we'd point to this, and it worked out really well. He's a solid horse, and he loves this course. Just a very consistent, solid horse who gives you what he has every time."
Sent off as the 3-5 favorite, Mr. Misunderstood covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:55.94 over a course rated yielding. Team Colors was third, with Sir Dudley Digges and Flatlinedcompleting the order.
Since switching exclusively to the turf following an off-the-board effort in the 2017 Illinois Derby (G3), Mr. Misunderstood has been wonderfully uncomplicated in terms of his results. The 4-year-old gelded son of Archarcharch rattled off five straight wins to end his sophomore campaign—including a victory in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes (G3T)—and has been worse than third just three times in his last 13 starts.
"He's definitely earned his keep and made us extremely proud," said owner Staton Flurry, whose Flurry Racing purchased Mr. Misunderstood for $130,000 out of Woodford Thoroughbreds' consignment to the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. "He kind of makes us feel like we can compete with all the big-time stables out there."
Bred in Kentucky by Athens Woods out of the Afternoon Deelites mare Jodys Deelite, Mr. Misunderstood improved his record to 12 wins from 21 starts, with $772,354 in earnings.
"We'll probably give him a break and freshen him up for a spring campaign," Cox said. "We'll see what happens. If he keeps improving we'll keep the Breeders' Cup on our target for next year."
VIDEO: RIVER CITY H. (G3T)