2001 was not a space odyssey. It was a déjà vu however at the Kentucky Derby as Bob Baffert had another favorite in the Derby that would lose. The favorite losing streak would begin to take shape and would not relent until another decade had passed but it wasn’t Baffert’s fault that he was a terrific trainer with great stock and who knew how to prepare a horse for the Derby.
This year’s main entrant was a magnificent horse called Point Given. I was extremely high on Point Given. He was sired by former Derby winner Thunder Gulch and I still remember his run in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park as the race, which stamped him in my mind as a formidable Derby horse. Point Given made one of those moves that leave you shaking your head wondering if the other horses were standing still. It was a thing of power and beauty. He lost his next two to finish out his two-year-old year but won all starts leading up to the Derby. He was the clear favorite but by this time in my handicapping of the Derby I was almost allergic to favorites. I was beginning to understand that betting a favorite in a large field when the distance and trip were in so much doubt was not a smart bet. I was willing to lose or willing to let a favorite beat me knowing that I was taking the best of it by wagering on a horse of higher odds or getting better value.
Point Given was 9-5 in the Derby field of 17. Not for me no thanks.
I settled on Monarchos. A horse that won the Florida Derby in extremely sharp fashion and then lost to a Baffert trainee in the Wood Memorial named Congaree. Back in those days the Florida Derby was run weeks before the Wood so horses would and did try to complete the Florida Derby and Wood double. The scheduling nowadays does not allow for horses to compete in both races but Monarchos did and he acquitted himself well in both especially in the Florida race where his powerful move made me take note of the horse.
He was a bit forgotten in the Derby due to the fact that he had lost his last race and was beaten by a Baffert horse and not even the best Baffert horse in the barn.
Monarchos was 10-1 on Derby day and absolutely blew their doors off under Jorge Chavez. Trained by John Ward, Jr. and owned by John Oxley, Monarchos’ victory was a popular one in Kentucky among old hard boots. And, it was popular with me as well. Invisible Ink, owned by a syndicate called Peachtree Stables ran second at a huge price and Congaree ran big to hang on for third. Point Given made a big move but flattened out ultimately finishing fifth. He would come back to win the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell and Travers to close out his career and the loss in the Derby remains one of the those mysteries as he was clearly the best of his generation. Maybe 2001 was a space odyssey for Point Given after all.
But on this first Saturday in May the roses and the glory belonged to Monarchos.
Derby Record 22-4-8-1 = 107.80/54.80 profit for a $ 2 dollar win bet