By BRANT JAMES and Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001
HALLANDALE BEACH -- Orchids in March, roses in May.
That's the plan for Monarchos, who swept past the leaders on the turn for home and won Saturday's $1-million Florida Derby to stamp himself a top Kentucky Derby contender.
"He has everything he needs to win the Kentucky Derby," jockey Jorge Chavez said after guiding Monarchos to a 41/2-length victory over Outofthebox.
Trainer John Ward predicted his 3-year-old colt would run "extremely well" in the 11/8-mile race at Gulfstream Park, and Monarchos didn't disappoint. The gray colt looked more like a seasoned veteran than one competing in his first stakes race.
"That was an old horse run he made today," Ward said.
His explosive move along the outside took Monarchos past the leading trio of Trailthefox, City Zip and Fountain of Youth winnerSongandaprayer. From there, Monarchos made it look easy before a crowd of 28,358. A half-mile into the race, he was 11th -- about 10 lengths behind the leaders.
"It might have looked like I moved too early, but I didn't want to wait because somebody else was coming," Chavez said. "When I asked him, he just exploded. That was a great feeling, like I was the king."
Monarchos, winless in two starts as a 2-year-old, is 3-for-3 this year. Sent off as the 7-5 favorite along with entrymate Invisible Ink, Monarchos paid $4.80, $3.40 and $4. Outofthebox paid $3.80 and $3. Invisible Ink paid $4.
Dream Run was fourth, followed by Songandaprayer, It's So Simple, You Know Who, Talk Is Money, City Zip, Turnberry Isle, Cee Dee, Trailthefox and Radical Riley.
The field of 13 was the largest since 1994. Time for the race was 1:49 4/5.
On the undercard, D'wildcat may have taken a step toward the Kentucky Derby with an impressive 101/2-length victory over Tarek in the $150,000 Swale Stakes.
JOCKEY INJURED: Jockey Cindy Noll, 39, broke her pelvis and suffered other injuries when a horse flipped over on her before a training run Saturday morning at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. Noll's husband, Steve, who serves as her agent, said she also broke four ribs and dislocated two fingers. She was in stable condition.
FAIR GROUNDS OAKS: Real Cozzy, a last-minute entry, won her stakes debut in New Orleans as odds-on favorite She's A Devil Due fell back to third behind Mystic Lady. Real Cozzy, unraced at 2, is unbeaten in three starts.
OLDSMAR -- Don't expect trainer Neil Morris to credit a dreaded disease with helping P.C. Plod win the second Tampa Bay Downs Steeplechase, but maybe he should.
Morris shipped the Virginia-based 5-year-old to Florida with fellow Kinross Farm steeplechaser Segregation Lane, the reigning 3-year-old champ who was left seeking a race after the Cheltenham Festival in England was canceled because of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
"We were going to take (P.C. Plod) to Camden (S.C.), not to kill him, but give him a run," Morris said. "Plans changed when Segregation moved.
"He was pretty ready. We did not just throw him in the van because of an empty spot."
P.C. Plod, in just his fourth steeplechase, proved his worth as more than a shipping buddy, leading from 1 1/2-mile mark to the finish in the 2 1/16-mile, $25,000 commencement to the National Steeplechase Association season. Segregation Lane gets his chance today in the $50,000 Sport of Kings novice hurdle event at the Little Everglades Steeplechase in Dade City.
"He just kept getting it," jockey Matt McCarron said of P.C. Plod. "I was really shocked no one was coming to me."
P.C. Plod's main scare came when he and Precise Direction jumped the seventh fence simultaneously and the Irish-bred fell. McCarron was able to avoid Precise Direction and open his lead from a half-length to 1 1/2 at the finish.
How Goes and Clearance Code rallied from fourth and fifth, respectively, down the stretch to tie for second.
P.C. Plod, a son of Pleasant Tap, won for the sixth time in 24 career races and for the third time in four steeplechases under McCarron, the nephew of thoroughbred jockey, Chris.
Total handle for the allowance was $159,236, an 18 percent increase from the first NSA season opener last year, which was a maiden event.