A calm over Monarchos' arrival

Road rough in past, Derby winner enjoys `super trip' from Ky.

Preakness Stakes

Horse Racing

May 10, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Monarchos, a two-martini flyer, traveled yesterday without incident - and one hopes without hangover - from Churchill Downs, where Saturday he won the Kentucky Derby, to Pimlico, where May 19 he will try to capture the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown.

After a flight from Louisville, Ky., to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Monarchos rode in a large horse van to Pimlico. Shortly after 2 p.m., Yvonne Azeff led the gray colt into the stakes barn and directly into stall 40, traditionally reserved for the Kentucky Derby winner.

Azeff is assistant trainer to John Ward Jr. During his visit Monday to Pimlico, Ward said that Monarchos was a "two-martini flyer" who would be given a tranquilizer for the journey. The colt had a rough trip flying to New York last month for the Wood Memorial Stakes, Ward said.

But Azeff, after securing Monarchos in his stall, said that the colt had a "great trip, a super trip." She said that Monarchos handles flying as he handles everything else: He takes awhile to adapt to the unknown.

"That's the best he's ever shipped," said Azeff, who flew with the horse. "I guess he decided that it was an OK day to fly."

Monarchos will visit the track this morning for a routine gallop, Azeff said. Ward, who stayed in Kentucky, is due to fly in tomorrow or Saturday.

As Azeff addressed reporters outside Monarchos' stall, the colt gazed alertly at the group. He pricked his ears at the voices and the cameras.

"He's turned into a real media hound," Azeff said. "He enjoys the attention."

Monarchos will be the center of attention as he prepares for the Preakness and a rematch with the two chestnuts trained by Bob Baffert - Congaree, who finished third in the Derby, and Point Given, the Derby favorite who finished fifth.

Baffert's pair won't travel from Churchill Downs to Pimlico until Wednesday, the trainer said. A P Valentine, the only other Derby horse slated for the Preakness, arrived three days ago at Pimlico.

Percy Hope, the Lone Star Derby winner, arrived at the Pimlico stakes barn in the same van after traveling from Churchill Downs on the same flight as Monarchos. And Griffinite, runner-up in the Lexington Stakes, also settled into the stakes barn after arriving from New York.

The Preakness field continued taking shape yesterday as two trainers pulled their horses off the list of race possibles.

D. Wayne Lukas said that Buckle Down Ben was never under consideration for the Preakness, even though a Lukas assistant had told officials of the Maryland Jockey Club that he was. Lukas said Buckle Down Ben is being pointed for the Belmont.

Also, John Dowd, trainer of Songandaprayer, said that his speedy colt would skip the Preakness. After setting record early fractions in the Derby, Songandaprayer will run in shorter races with the goal being either the Breeders' Cup Sprint or Breeders' Cup Mile, Dowd said.

Ben Perkins Jr., trainer of Richly Blended, said: "We're going to run. We're planning to anyway." Earlier, Perkins had said merely that it was possible Richly Blended, a sizzling speedster, would contest the race.

Richly Blended's presence could keep out Distilled, the speedball trained by Todd Pletcher. He said that he would breeze Distilled on Sunday at Belmont Park, look at the Preakness field and then decide whether to send the horse to Pimlico.

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