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Monarchos Makes Point

Horse racing: Colt pulls 10-1 upset in second-fastest Kentucky Derby. Point Given is disappointing fifth.

May 06, 2001|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Secretariat can rest easy. His record is still secure, but barely.

On the 28th anniversary of the chestnut colt's brilliant run in 1973, Monarchos ran the race of his life Saturday to win the 127th Kentucky Derby in the second-fastest time and in front of the second-largest crowd.

Trained by John Ward and superbly ridden by Jorge Chavez, the roan colt came from far off the pace to win by 4 3/4 lengths in a blazing 1:59 4/5 for the 1 1/4 miles on a fast Churchill Downs track.

Secretariat, who covered the distance in 1:59 2/5, is the only other Derby horse to cross the wire in under two minutes.

Invisible Ink, who survived a near-fatal illness a year ago, finished a game second under John Velasquez, who lodged a foul claim against the winner that was turned down by track stewards.

Congaree, ridden by Victor Espinoza, came in third, a nose behind Invisible Ink.

Point Given, the overwhelming favorite among the Churchill Downs crowd of 154,210, finished fifth, 11 1/2 lengths behind the winner and 2 3/4 lengths behind fourth-place Thunder Blitz.

"He never felt comfortable out there," jockey Gary Stevens said of the colt who was sent out as the 9-5 favorite in the field of 17 3-year-olds.

"The odd thing about it was he didn't seem to be tired when he pulled up. He wasn't breathing hard at all. It was like he didn't race."

Point Given might not have raced, but Monarchos certainly did.

Bumped by Point Given at the start when they broke side by side out of the auxiliary gate, he was in front of only four horses after a half-mile when Chavez made his move.

Maneuvering deftly through the field, he and 10-1 shot Monarchos picked up one horse after another until they were lying sixth after a mile and then second, three lengths behind Congaree, at the eighth-pole while dueling down Churchill Downs' energy-sapping stretch.

Monarchos had made a similar move in winning the Florida Derby by 4 1/2 lengths in March, but hadn't fared quite as well in the Wood Memorial in April, when he finished second, 2 3/4 lengths behind Congaree.

"Today, I had more horse than in the Florida Derby," Chavez said. "Much more horse."

The Kentucky-born Ward, who described himself as "the only real hardboot" among this year's Derby trainers, said he knew Saturday's victory was all but assured when he saw how fast the race was being run.

"Mr. Oxley [owner John Oxley] was standing in front of me and I would call the fractions out to him," Ward said. "When they put up the :44 and change, I called it out. And then when they put the 1:09 and a couple of ticks, I said, 'Oh yeah, I got it made now.'

"When they capped off the mile in 1:35, I knew we were sailing on home because that had to fry the rest of them and this horse was just getting to the part of the racetrack he likes."

Chavez, nicknamed "Chop Chop" for his style with the whip, was hard-pressed to describe winning the Derby on his fourth try.

"My feelings?" he asked, repeating a question. "The closest I can get is like it's going to the sky. I'm very excited. I can't even talk now. It's a great feeling. This is unbelievable for me. My children, my grandchildren, everybody will remember this."

Chavez is only 39, but a real grandfather in the race, 54-year-old Laffit Pincay, was not as lucky. He finished 11th aboard Millennium Wind, one of several highly regarded horses to end up down the track. "I had a good trip inside," Pincay said. "The race went pretty much the way I thought it would. When I came out, I bumped with another horse. But by then my horse was already done. He was tired."

Dollar Bill, the second choice, came home a distant 15th after Pat Day also ran into slight trouble.

"Somebody was stopping and Eddie [Delahoussaye on Jamaican Rum, who finished sixth] ducked back to the inside of him," Day said. "When he did, he closed the hole on me and that was it. I've just been unlucky with this colt."

Bob Baffert, who saddled Congaree and Point Given, had been trying to become the first trainer since Ben Jones with Citation and Coaltown in 1948 to finish first and second in the Derby.

Instead, it was Oxley who completed a double of sorts. He not only owns Monarchos but also has an interest in Peachtree Stable, the syndicate that owns Invisible Ink.

Ward, who saddled two horses in the 1995 Derby, called Monarchos' triumph a victory for tradition.

"My motto is, treat them like a champion, train them like a champion and make them disappoint you," he said. "That's essentially the old way. Give the horse every absolute possibility, take your time. If it doesn't work, go back and do it again. But once you find out an animal doesn't have the talent, then you move on to another one."

Monarchos has the talent and now will be pointed to the Preakness in two weeks.

Chavez, meanwhile, has known all along that Monarchos could carry him, if not past Secretariat in the record books, then certainly close enough to deserve an asterisk.

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