Louisville-born trainer leans on strong family ties in search of first Derby win

Louisville-born trainer leans on strong family ties in search of first Derby win

It’s not every year a Louisville-native trainer is the favorite to bring home the Garland of Roses. In 2021, Brad Cox is looking for his first Kentucky Derby win in his first start.

Cox is also looking for his third Kentucky Oaks win in four years. It’s a lot of pressure, but he’s got a lot of family support to help shoulder it.

Cox is a very busy man these days, and even his mother doesn’t get to see him much.

“Today he was in here, and I said, ‘Brad, sit down on the couch. I just want to look at you,” said Mary Cox, Brad’s mother.

As busy as he is now, Mary said it’s been that way for a long time. Growing up just two blocks away from Churchill Downs, Mary said her son has always been taken by the ponies.

“I think he was 12 years old, he wanted to go over there and walk the horses,” Mary said. “He wasn’t old enough, but he would sneak over there and try to walk them.”

Now a two-time winning trainer of the Kentucky Oaks, Cox will start his first two horses in the Kentucky Derby. It’s special moment for a family raised in the Derby City.

“This is his home track,” said Doug Cox, Brad’s brother. “Like we’ve said so many times, we grew up a couple blocks away, and it just makes it that much greater.”

Naturally, this would be a time for nerves, but Cox’s family said he claims not to have time to be nervous. However, his mom and brother said they’ve got plenty of butterflies in their stomach for him.

Even after a big win at the Kentucky Oaks in 2020, Brad was already looking ahead.

“It’s just non-stop,” Doug Cox said. “You stop and try to smell the roses so-to-speak, but you know tomorrow’s a new day.”

The Brad Cox-trained horse, Essential Quality, will likely be the morning line favorite come Derby Day.

Mandaloun will have a shot too. No matter what happens, Cox’s mother said to remember why he’s in the business to begin with.

“I’ve always said you need to be happy,” said Mary Cox, “do what makes you happy.”

Cox’s shot at a third Kentucky Oaks could also come Friday with another potential morning line favorite: Travel Column.

Sean Baute

Sean Baute

Sean Baute is a multi-media journalist at WAVE 3 News.