Hot Baffert Prospect Runs at Santa Anita Wednesday

True Monarch, who could turn out to be Bob Baffert's top Kentucky Derby contender, gets a chance to stretch out for the first time on Wednesday when he tackles six other 3-year-olds in a one-mile optional claiming allowance race.

A victory by the son of Maria's Mon would catapult him way up the Derby Watch list, in much the same manner the lightly raced Congaree climbed rapidly to the top last year. True Monarch, owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, was brilliant breaking his maiden on Jan. 12, blazing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03 3/5. Prior to that race, he worked 6 furlongs in 1:12 and 5 furlongs in :58 2/5. In his two works since that race, he worked 6 furlongs in 1:12 and 5 furlongs in :58 2/5. Are we talking machine here?

True Monarch's pedigree has horses who possessed great speed, but could carry it classic distances, such as Dr. Fager and Spectacular Bid. His sire and broodmare sire, Maria's Mon and Cure the Blues, both looked like the type of horses who could carry their speed, but never got the chance. He is still up against it in regard to getting to the Derby with enough racing foundation, but it remains to be seen just how good this colt is. We should find out tomorrow.

True Monarch, who will be ridden by Gary Stevens, will be facing several promising colts, including Pelirrojo, who disappointed in his last start after a brilliant maiden victory. Since then, however, he has worked 5 furlongs in :59 3/5, 6 furlongs in 1:13 4/5 and more recently 6 furlongs in a sharp 1:11 4/5. The John Sadler-trained colt will have Garrett Gomez aboard.

D. Wayne Lukas will saddle the stakes-placed Overbrook Farm colt Gold Dollar, who has a big edge in experience. Baffert will have another colt in the race who could be any kind. Puerto Banus, owned by The Thoroughbred Corp, came from the clouds to break his maiden in his only start, going 6 1/2 furlongs. Another exciting prospect with only one career start is the Bruce Headley-trained Stronach Stable colt Raven Power, who won his only start by 2 lengths in a rapid 1:15 2/5 for the 6 1/2 furlongs. Rounding out the field is the former English-trained colt Azillion, making his first start in this country. Cable Ready, trained by Jim Cassidy, is stakes-placed, but is coming off two poor efforts in stakes races.