A year after riding in his first Kentucky Derby, David Cohen could smell the roses again in 2022 with unbeaten Dash Attack, the 7-2 second choice in the program for the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Oaklawn.
Cohen guided Dash Attack (2 for 2) to victories in his Dec. 5 career debut and the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1, the latter Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.
Cohen had never been on Dash Attack before the chestnut son of Munnings closed with a rush to capture his career debut at Oaklawn for trainer Kenny McPeek. The Smarty Jones came roughly 9 ½ years after Cohen and McPeek teamed to win the $1 million Travers Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds at Saratoga with Golden Ticket.
“That’s what David meant in the interview (following the Smarty Jones) – to circle back with Kenny – it’s great,” said Cohen’s longtime agent, Bill Castle. “After winning with Golden Ticket, to try and repeat like that, ‘Wow!’”
Dash Attack is among 12 horses entered in the Southwest, which goes as the ninth of 11 races Saturday. Racing begins at 12 p.m. (Central), with probable post time for the Southwest 4:22 p.m.
The projected Southwest field from the rail out: Ben Diesel, Jon Court to ride, 117 pounds, 10-1 on the morning line; Dash Attack, David Cohen, 122, 7-1; Don’tcrossthedevil, Ramon Vazquez, 117, 30-1; Kavod, Francisco Arrieta, 117, 12-1; Costa Terra, Tiago Pereira, 117, 12-1; Osbourne, David Cabrera, 117, 8-1; Ignitis, Luis Contreras, 117, 10-1; Barber Road, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117, 5-1; Classic Moment, Martin Garcia, 117, 12-1; Newgrange, John Velazquez, 122, 2-1; Call Me Jamal, Geovanni Franco, 117, 30-1; and Vivar, Florent Geroux, 119, 12-1.
Dash Attack collected 10 points for his Smarty Jones victory and ranks ninth on the official Kentucky Derby leaderboard released Sunday by Churchill Downs.
The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters, with starting preference given to horses with the highest point totals earned in designated races like the Smarty Jones and the Southwest, which also offers 17 to the four finishers (10-4-2-1).
Castle said McPeek asked him before the Oaklawn meeting began Dec. 3 if Cohen would be interested riding a “talented unraced baby” the trainer had, aka Dash Attack, in his career debut. McPeek didn’t have to ask twice, Castle said.
“Just thrilled to be on him,” Castle said. “Just fortunate.”
Both of Dash Attack’s victories have come at 1 mile over an off track. He was a 1 ¼-length winner of his career debut at odds of 10-1, then won the Smarty Jones by two lengths at odds of 7-1.
“Kenny told me he had some issues with the horse physically early on and that’s why he was a late bloomer and was probably about 80 percent fit going into the first race,” Cohen said. “Naturally, first time out, two turns, off track, sitting in the pocket, you expect a horse to get better for the next time out. We were hoping that he didn’t regress of that effort, but he came out of that race very well.”
The Smarty Jones marked Cohen’s 20th career victory for McPeek, according to statistical provider Equineline. More than half (13) came in 2012, including the Travers.
“It’s a blessing,” Cohen said, referring to Dash Attack. “Kenny and I, we’ve linked up in the past for some big wins, the Travers being one of them. To have this year come around and have a horse this early, it’s a blessing.”
Cohen, 37, finished seventh aboard Keepmeinmind in last year’s Kentucky Derby for trainer Robertino Diodoro, the jockey’s major client. His Kentucky Derby debut came a little more than seven years after a severe leg injury (he was kicked by a horse in the paddock before a Feb. 1, 2014, race at Aqueduct) and the subsequent deaths of deaths of his father (cancer) and sister (head injury) threatened to derail the jockey’s once-promising career.
Cohen rode his first winner in 2004 and ranked sixth nationally in victories (288) and 24th in purse earnings ($7,357,326) – both career highs – in 2009 competing in New York and the Mid-Atlantic, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Golden Ticket, a 33-1 long shot, dead-heated with favored Alpha in the prestigious Travers, billed the “Midsummer Derby.”
“In those years, Kenny was a tremendous supporter, from Golden Ticket to graded stakes horses like that,” Castle said. “We’re fortunate to have fallen into Kenny’s barn right now.”
After not riding in 2015 and 2016, Cohen returned to the saddle in late 2017 and rode 37 winners in his Oaklawn debut in 2018 to finish third in the standings. Cohen rode 75 winners the following year at Oaklawn to end Ricardo Santana Jr.’s six-year hold on the title. Now, he’s winning races for McPeek again.
“He’s always done a good job for me,” McPeek said. “He’s going to stay on this horse until he gets beat, I suppose. He’s a good rider. I think he’s equally excited.”
Dash Attack completed major preparations for the Southwest with a 5-furlong maintenance workout in 1:01.40 Monday morning under Cohen. The track was fast.
“Just let him stretch his legs and finish up,” McPeek said. “Pretty basic stuff for us.”
The Southwest is part of a stakes tripleheader Saturday.
The $200,000 Martha Washington for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles has drawn a field of six, including multiple stakes winner Optionality and powerful Dec. 31 allowance winner Secret Oath. Nine horses are entered in the $150,000 King Cotton for older sprinters, including Grade 1 winner Collusion Illusion, track record holders Hollis and Nashville and defending champion Boldor.
Newgrange and Collusion Illusion were scheduled to arrive Wednesday following a flight from Southern California, where both horses are based.