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How the Derby was won

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - You can win the Kentucky Derby from almost any post position, provided you have a smooth trip. Monarchos' 1 1/4-mile journey around Churchill Downs on Saturday wasn't perfect, but jockey Jorge Chavez kept the lanky gray colt out of harm's way except for a brief and ultimately inconsequential incident in the stretch.

The Kentucky Derby
The field makes its way around the first turn during the May 5 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
The son of Maria's Mon duplicated his wide move that won the Florida Derby two races back and drew away late to beat 55-1 shot Invisible Ink by 4 3/4 lengths. Chavez and trainer John Ward then had to sweat out a frivolous claim of foul by Invisible Ink's rider, John Velazquez, for alleged interference in midstretch. There was no way this runaway winner was coming down, and the stewards dismissed Velazquez' complaint.

Monarchos, who came from post 16, was the third consecutive Derby winner to start from post 15 and up and the fifth in the past seven years. The auxiliary gate is not a death seat.

Otherwise, except for a minor bump with Point Given leaving the gate, the 10-1 Monarchos had no problems. Chavez kept the deep closer near the back of the pack early, which was the place to be while longshot Songandaprayer ran insane fractions. The pacesetter set two Derby records on his suicide mission under jockey Aaron Gryder, blazing a half-mile in 44.86 seconds and 6 furlongs in 1:09.25.

Monarchos loped along in 13th, ahead of only four horses, entering the clubhouse turn and was still 13th after a half-mile. Then came an eye-catching burst along the rail that set up his sweeping surge into the stretch. Chavez passed five horses on the inside to move up to sixth after a mile in 1:35, at which point the pacesetters were beginning to implode. Monarchos burst into contention with a five-wide run on the second turn, the place where most Derbys are won and lost.

He entered the stretch six-wide and went after Congaree, who inherited the lead when Songandaprayer packed it in near the five-sixteenths pole. In upper stretch, Monarchos came in a bit under Chavez' righthanded whip, which may have blocked Invisible Ink for a stride or two, but not enough to cut him off or alter the outcome. Monarchos looked like a sure thing at the eighth pole as Chavez went to his punishing and powerful lefthanded stick. Monarchos, about five paths off the rail, drew even with the tiring Congaree approaching the sixteenth pole and galloped into history.

The time of 1:59.97 was the second-fastest in Derby history, behind only the immortal Secretariat's 1:59 2/5 clocking in 1973. It was the most lopsided Derby win since Spend a Buck's 5 1/4-length wire job under Angel Cordero in 1985.

Asked about the objection, Chavez said, "I was very cooperative because when they said somebody claimed foul, I said, 'Where?' because I really didn't know where it was ... I said, 'I wasn't in nobody's way,' and then I got to watch the replay."

Even Todd Pletcher, trainer of Invisible Ink, didn't think the winner should have been DQ'd.

"I certainly want to win the Kentucky Derby," Pletcher said, "but that would have been a bittersweet way to do it. It looked like Monarchos bothered us a bit, but not enough to affect who won the race."