John C. Oxley's Monarchos, who capped a strong winter-spring campaign with victories in the Florida Derby (gr. I) and Kentucky Derby (gr. I) last year, makes his 4-year-old debut here Saturday as he preps for Gulfstream Park's $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) on Feb. 9.The colt by Maria's Mon, who has a perfect three-for-three record at Gulfstream, will have just four rivals in the $40,000 allowance-optional claiming event at a mile and a sixteenth, which goes as the sixth event on Saturday's 12-race program.Trainer John Ward Jr. decided to give Monarchos a race as he prepares for the mile and an eighth Donn, since the colt has not run since finishing third in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on June 9. He has been working over the Gulfstream strip for more than a month now. Jorge Chavez, his regular rider, will be aboard at 120 pounds.
Last year, Monarchos was the most exciting development of the Gulfstream winter season. He made his first career start here on Jan. 13 and broke his maiden impressively, then easily beat a good allowance field on Feb. 3. On March 10, less than two months after his first start, he went into the Florida Derby as the 7-5 favorite and dominated his field, drawing away to a four and a half-length score.Monarchos finished second in the Wood Memorial (gr. II) at Aqueduct, but in the Kentucky Derby a wide rally carried him to a nearly five-length score over Invisible Ink, who had run third in the Florida Derby.He was sixth in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), then was sidelined for the season after the Belmont Stakes after the trainer discovered the colt had a hairline fracture that needed time to heal.