2001 Triple Crown

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Electrifying run

Monarchos posts second-fastest winning Derby

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Posted: Saturday May 05, 2001 6:23 PM
Updated: Sunday May 06, 2001 10:31 PM
  Monarchos Monarchos flies across the finish line with the second-fastest time in Kentucky Derby history. AP

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Monarchos doesn't look a bit like the great Secretariat, but he sure ran like Big Red in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

In fact, only Secretariat has run the testing 1 1/4 miles of America's most famous horse race faster than the gray Monarchos.

He carried Jorge Chavez across the finish line in 1:59 4/5, only two-fifths of a second off the track record set by Secretariat en route to the Triple Crown in 1973.

Monarchos will try to follow that road on May 19 when he runs in the Preakness at Pimlico.

"Today, I had more horse than I did at the Florida Derby," Chavez said.

After Monarchos won that race March 10 at Gulfstream Park, Chavez said: "He has everything he needs to win the Kentucky Derby. I've never been on this kind of horse."

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The only other jockey who had was Ron Turcotte, who rode Secretariat.

While Monarchos was earning the roars and plaudits of a crowd of 154,210, second largest ever to watch a Derby, trainer Bob Baffert's favored Point Given was struggling home fifth in a field of 17 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs. Congaree, Baffert's other Derby hope, was third behind Invisible Ink.

"I was hoping to run 1-2," said Baffert, looking for his third Derby win in five years. "It's tough and disappointing."

Monarchos won by a dominating 4 3/4 lengths. But Chavez, trainer John Ward and owner John Oxley had to sweat out a foul claim by John Velazquez, who was aboard Invisible Ink. Velazquez claimed Monarchos interfered with him just past the quarter pole.

"We interviewed both riders and did a critical review of the videos ... for any foul," chief steward Bernard Hettel said. "We could find no evidence of interference and we made the race official."

No winner of any Derby, Preakness or Belmont Stakes has ever been disqualified for a race infraction. Dancer's Image was disqualified after finishing first in the 1968 Derby when he tested positive for butazolidin, which is now legal in Kentucky.

Ky. Derby Fastest Times
Fastest times recorded by winners over the 1 1/4-mile course.
Horse  Year  Time 
Secretariat  1973  1:59 2/5 
Monarchos  2001  1:59 4/5 
Northern Dancer  1964  2:00 
Spend a Buck  1985  2:00 1/5 
Decidedly  1962  2:00 2/5 
Proud Clarion  1967  2:00 3/5 
Grindstone  1996  2:01 
Fusaichi Pegasus  2000  2:01 
Lucky Debonair  1965  2:01 1/5 
Affirmed  1978  2:01 1/5 
Thunder Gulch  1995  2:01 1/5 

"I certainly want to win the Kentucky Derby," Todd Pletcher, who trains Invisible Ink, said. "But that would be a bittersweet way to do it."

Ward, a third-generation horseman from nearby Lexington, is proud to call himself "a hardboot."

"I just try to train the old-fashioned way," said Ward, 55, who shares training duties with his wife, Donna. "And I have to say this is one for tradition."

Monarchos, named for the Byzantine era Greek ruler Georgios Monarchos, was bumped by Point Given at the start before finding himself on the outside, ahead of just four horses on the first turn. On the far turn, he began moving past tired horses to position himself for his winning drive.

"He isn't that fast on the first turn, but once he hits his stride he explodes," said Ward, who won his first Derby in his second try.

It also was the first Derby victory in the second try for Oxley and the first win in five Derbies for the 39-year-old Chavez, a native of Peru.

After Songandaprayer led the field through the fastest first half-mile in Derby history (44 4/5 seconds), Chavez stayed cool.

"He dropped inside and I just whipped him and he started rolling," the jockey said, referring to Monarchos' run down the backside. "I didn't ask for a lot, just a little."

Chavez guided Monarchos to the outside on the final turn and the gray started passing horses as he moved into contention at the quarter-pole.

"I touched nobody," Chavez said of the foul claim. "I was clear. My horse was exploding. I didn't even see Invisible Ink."

Derby controversy
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- The Kentucky Derby started late, finished quickly, but was further delayed by a jockey's objection.

Monarchos won the latest-starting Derby in the second-fastest time in history, but 154,210 fans and a national TV audience had to wait several minutes before the gray colt was officially declared the winner.

Click here for full story. 

Like any owner of a Kentucky Derby winner, the 64-year-old Oxley was exultant.

"It's the fulfillment of a lifetime dream, actually several lifetimes," said Oxley, who owns a horse farm near Midway, Ky., and a Tulsa, Okla.-based oil and gas exploration company. "Nothing in any life experience is like winning the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs."

Oxley said he first listened to the Derby on the radio as a 9-year-old in 1946 when Calumet Farms' Assault won.

"It did something and thereafter, I followed the Derby," he said.

Monarchos went into the Derby as a 10-1 shot off a second-place finish to Congaree in the Wood Memorial. That performance did not bother Ward at all.

Instead, the trainer said it was the perfect prep to get a horse ready for the Derby.

The victory was the fourth in five starts as a 3-year-old for Monarchos, who paid $23, $11.80 and $8.80 and earned $812,000 from a purse of $1,112,000. That boosted his career earning to $1,605,630 on a record of four wins, a second and a third in seven starts.

He was winless in two starts last year.

Invisible Ink, looking for his first stakes victory, paid $46.60 and $21.20. Congaree returned $7.20 after he finished four lengths in front of Thunder Blitz.

Point Given was 2 3/4 lengths behind Thunder Blitz and was followed by Jamaican Rum, A P Valentine, Express Tour, Fifty Stars, Startac, Millennium Wind, Arctic Boy, Songandaprayer, Balto Star, Dollar Bill and Keats. Talk Is Money did not finish.

The finishes of Point Given, the Santa Anita Derby winner, and Congaree had to be bitter disappointments for Baffert.

"Maybe he needed to be farther back. ... Maybe it was the heat. I don't know," Baffert said of Point Given. "He just didn't fire his best shot. We didn't see the real Point Given. The horse I know did not show up."

Point Given reared-up four times after an early morning pre-Derby gallop, but at the time, Baffert said he didn't think it would affect his race performance.

He added that jockey Gary Stevens said the horse "wasn't handling the surface the way he normally does."

It also was a bad day for 54-year-old Laffit Pincay Jr., who rode Millennium Wind in a bid for his second Derby victory. It was the 20th Derby and first since 1994 for the winningest jockey in history.

It was too long ago to be considered an omen, but when Oxley went to his first Derby in 1954, the race was won by Determine, who just happened to be a gray colt.

On Saturday morning, Oxley asked his wife: "Do you think another gray will win?"

Related information
Trainer Baffert has two favorites in Ky. Derby
The Derby is a race like no other
Balto Star could shoot to win at Kentucky Derby
Nothing's a given for Derby favorite Point Given
Records set in three of first four undercard races
Point Given gives trainer early morning scare
Derby win worth the wait for jockey Chavez
Monarchos owner, trainer turn disappointment into triumph
2001 Kentucky Derby Results
Late start, foul claim cloud 2001 Derby
Jorge Chavez is ecstatic to have won the Kentucky Derby. (120 K)
Trainer John Ward has never seen Monarchos stop his drive. (211 K)
Winning jockey Jorge Chavez felt that after three previous attempts, today had to be the day he would finally win the Kentucky Derby. (83 K)
Monarchos owner John Oxley knew that confidence was high on his horse's team, especially with trainer John Ward. (112 K)
Point Given's rider Gary Stevens won't make any excuses for his finish. (103 K)
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