Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Monarchos made his return to the races following a more than seven-month layoff in an optional claiming/allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, running a non-threatening third in a field of five.
The 4-year-old son of Maria's Mon, who had not run since finishing third in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), trailed early after a slow start, angled inside at the top of the stretch and finished evenly, beaten more than eight lengths by winner Mongoose.
Monarchos, with Jorge Chavez aboard, was last and seven lengths from the lead in the first turn, but moved into fourth at the five-eighths pole. He then rallied into third, moving to the inside at the top of the stretch with Watch Your Pennies alongside.
Both horses gained a position when Regal Shivers dropped out of it, but Monarchos couldn't keep pace with Watch Your Pennies down the stretch, trailing him by 2 1/2 lengths at the finish line.
"I got what I was looking for out of the race," said trainer John Ward, noting that he has yet to push the colt hard in his training, "The track was a little on the heavy side and old horses don't back up like 3-year-old sometimes do. It fits right into our scheme for him. Now, I'll give him one or two hard works and he'll be ready."
The trainer, who gave no indication of disappointment with the outcome, indicated that the Feb. 9 Donn Handicap (gr. I) is still likely to be Monarchos' next start. "Now maybe the racing secretary will keep the weight off him," Ward joked.
Monarchos captured all three of his starts at Gulfstream in 2001, including the Florida Derby (gr. I), but sustained a hairline fracture of his right knee last summer.
Made the 1-2 betting favorite for Saturday's sixth race, the John Oxley runner created a minus show pool of $34,472.
"He tried hard," said jockey Jorge Chavez, who rode Monarchos through all seven of his starts in 2001 and is his regular pilot during morning workouts. "He got a little tired, but he's been off a long time. He'll be ready to go next time."
Mongoose, a 4-year-old son of Broad Brush, was sent off as the 5-2 second choice as he posted his fifth win in 14 starts for owners Gary and Mary West. The colt was making his first start for trainer James Bond after previously being trained by Bill Mott.