Ain’t Da Beer Cold could bring Kenny Cox full circle

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It’s been 31 years, and trainer Ken Cox still remembers the feeling of winning his first stakes race.

During the winter of 1990, Flaming Emperor won the Native Dancer for Cox at Laurel Park. It was the first of six stakes victories during a 90-race career for the Maryland-bred gelding that included 18 wins, 13 seconds, 14 thirds and nearly $700,000 in purse earnings.

Cox hopes to revisit the feeling with Matt Spencer, Kelly Jo Cox and Bonuccelli Racing’s Ain’t Da Beer Cold in Saturday’s $100,000 Native Dancer at Laurel, and create another unforgettable memory.

“We’re very excited. We own the mare, we own brothers and sisters, and it helps us in our business,” Cox said. “The very first stake I ever won was the Native Dancer. The owner [Matt Spencer] has never won a stake and it would be great if that were his first, as well.”

Ain’t Da Beer Cold drew Post 6 outside all but one of his rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Native Dancer for 3-year-olds and up. Second by a nose in the 2020 Howard County as a 2-year-old, the 4-year-old gelding will be ridden by Victor Carrasco.

“I’m going to leave [strategy] up to Victor,” Cox said. “He can rate. He’s very game on the front end. He likes to look a horse in the eye. He can go head and head and it won’t bother him. It’ll be the pace. I shouldn’t see him more than a length or two, if at all, off the pace going a mile and an eighth. If one of them decide they want to try to rate a little bit, we won’t have a problem going to the lead, as well.”

Winless in five starts last year, Ain’t Da Beer cold has one win, one second and one third in three starts so far this year, all with Carrasco up. His victory came by eight lengths in front-running fashion Feb. 13 at Laurel in a 1 1/16-mile restricted allowance.

Ain’t Da Beer Cold won at Laurel in February. Photo Jim McCue.

“Last year was baffling. We thought he was training good. It was one of those things [where] you kind of make excuses. You think he’s doing good, but wasn’t the same,” Cox said. “We did some bloodwork and saw some things that weren’t right, so we gave him a break. He’s had a form reversal since then, and he’s showed up at every race and done everything we’ve asked of him in his last few starts.”

Cox said the Ain’t Da Beer Cold’s name derives from the catch phrase of late Orioles and Colts radio and TV broadcaster Chuck Thompson, who also used it as the title of his autobiography.

“Anytime anything big happened, that was his saying, ‘Ain’t the beer cold,'” Cox said. “I was watching some broadcasts a few years back of just classic stuff I remember as a child, heard the saying and I was like, ‘That name has to be taken.’ I looked it up and it wasn’t, and I said, ‘That’s the perfect name for this horse.'”

Ain’t Da Beer Cold is 8-1 on the morning line, fifth choice in the field of seven. A pair of Parx shippers, Forewarned (2-1) for trainer Uriah St. Lewis and Bird King (3-1) for Mike Pino, figure to get long looks from the betting public, as do locals Workin On a Dream (7-2) for Robin Graham and Plot the Dots (4-1) for Claudio Gonzalez.