Monarchos Wood Favorite

John C. Oxley's Monarchos will break from post two as the 4-5 favorite for the Wood Memorial (gr. II), to be contested April 14 over 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct.

The Wood Memorial is the first leg of the Big Pick 3, a $1 national bet that also includes two other Kentucky Derby (gr. I) preps, the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland and the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park. All races will be televised by ESPN.

Monarchos enters the Wood following a victory in the Florida Derby (gr. I), taking the race by 4 1/2 lengths after making a five-wide move. He is the son of a popular Belmont Park resident who became a champion, Maria's Mon, and is trained by John Ward and ridden by Jorge Chavez. The colt failed to break his maiden in two starts as a 2-year-old, but won his seasonal debut at Gulfstream in January by six lengths.

Oxley and Ward also have Hero's Tribute starting in the Blue Grass Stakes about 20 minutes after the Wood.

One of the biggest challenges facing Monarchos is Stonerside Stable's Congaree, who is the second betting choice at 8-5. Finishing sixth in his only start as a 2-year-old, a Del Mar maiden special weight, Congaree did not make it back to the races until February after surgery to remove a bone chip from his right knee. Bob Baffert trains the son of Arazi, Congaree.

The third betting choice at 5-1, Richly Blended, enters the race with three consecutive gate-to-wire wins for trainer Ben Perkins Jr.

The field for the Wood Memorial includes:
Paging (30-1) C.C. Lopez; Monarchos (4-5) Jorge Chavez; Voodoo (20-1) Heberto Castillo Jr.; It's So Simple (10-1) Aaron Gryder; Congaree (8-5) Victor Espinoza; Richly Blended (5-1) Rick Wilson.