Monarchos exploded to the lead as the field straightened for home and won the 127th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs Saturday. The track had been playing fast all day and it did again in the Derby, Monarchos recording the second fastest winning time in Derby history. He covered the 1 1/4-miles in 1:59.97. Secretariat ran 1:59 2/5 (before timing in hundredths) in 1973.
Monarchos, owned by John and Debby Oxley and trained by John T. Ward Jr., had to survive an objection made by John Velazquez, the rider of second-place finisher Invisible Ink.
Monarchos was ridden by Jorge Chavez. Monarchos finished 4 3/4 lengths in front of Invisible Ink, who was a nose ahead of Congaree. Thunder Blitz ran fourth.
Favored Point Given broke from the 17 post, just outside of Monarchos. Point Given was moving good on the outside down the backside and through the turn, but didn't have the final effort to hit the board, running fifth.
"I didn't get much of a response," jockey Gary Stevens said of the beaten favorite. "Obviously, he didn't show up today."
The fractions were :22.25, :44.86, 1:09.25, and 1:35. Congaree assumed the advantage in upper stretch, but Monarchos swooped past him on the outside at the sixteenth pole. Monarchos paid $23, $11.80, and $8.80. Longshot Invisible Ink returned $46.60 and $21.20. Congaree was worth $7.20 to show. The Kentucky Oaks-Derby double paid $79.20.
Monarchos was bred in Kentucky by Jim Squires and purchased by Oxley as a 2-year-old for $170,000. He is by Maria's Mon out of the Dixieland Band mare Regal Band. It is the first Derby win for Oxley, Ward, and Chavez.
With Monarchos' victory and the runner-up effort by Invisible Ink, the Oxleys were double winners. They own a 25% interest in the Peachtree Racing partnership that races Invisible Ink. (Because of Oxleys' dual ownership interest, Monarchos and Invisible Ink would have been coupled in the wagering under the Derby betting format that existed until this year).
The complete order of finish was: Monarchos, Invisible Ink, Congaree, Thunder Blitz, Point Given, Jamaican Rum, A P Valentine, Express Tour, Fifty Stars, Startac, Millennium Wind, Arctic Boy, Songandaprayer, Balto Star, Dollar Bill, Keats, and Talk Is Money.
Songandaprayer, ridden by Aaron Gryder, took the lead shortly after the break and ran the fastest first half-mile in Derby history -- 44 4/5 seconds. That was three-fifths faster than Top Avenger ran it in 1981 and equaled by Groovy in 1986. The 1:09.25 clocking for six furlongs was also the fastest three-quarters of a mile, exceeding Spend a Buck's 1:09 3/5 in 1985.
Monarchos had only four horses beaten going into the clubhouse turn. As the field moved down the backstretch, Chavez started pumping on Monarchos to get him going. As they rounded the far turn, the colt was moved to the outside and unleashed his winning move.
Monarchos earned $812,000 from a purse of $1,112,000, improving his bankroll to $1,605,630 gleaned from four wins, a second and a third in seven starts.
Oxley and Ward had been represented in two previous Derbys, with Jambalaya Jazz finishing 15th in 1995 with Jambalaya Jazz and 17th with Pyramid Peak.
Ward said there was no doubt about Monarchos' plans, noting that one reason the colt was not worked extensively prior to the Derby was so he could be in position to participate in the Preakness if he won the Derby.
"Nothing could be more exciting, more incredible, more thrilling, more ashtonishing, more unbelievable than today," John Oxley said. "Each one of those milestones in your life where at that time, seemingly the most exciting, the most important, and thrilling day with your spouse, but there's nothing like winning the Kentucky Derby."
"Well you know, I put myself on the line all week long because I was very outspoken about the way I was going to handle it, the way we were going to do it and the method that we were going to do it in," Ward said. "We weren't going to waiver for anybody and I kind of got away with it. You know you can really emabaress yourself like that, but you know you've got to have confidence, tremendous confidence in the animal and the animal has shown us, like I said all week, I have never seen this horse stop his drive. He has never shown me the end of his drive yet. Other than his first maiden race when he didn't know what he was doing, he has continually been coming at the end of the race and has always finished full of run.
"He got slammed coming out of the gate, but that didn't really bother me much because he was outside in a good post," Ward said. "I think the main thing that impressed me was when they put the :22 1/5 up there Mr. Oxley was standing in front of me and I would call the fractions out to him, and when they put up the :44 and change up I called it out, and then when they put up the 1:09 and a couple of ticks up I said 'Oh yeah, I got it made now.' When they capped it off with a mile in 1:35 I knew that 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."