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Updated on 09/16/2011 7:40AM
Look who's running: It's Monarchos
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The highly anticipated return of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos will take place earlier than expected as he will make his 2002 debut Saturday in a fourth-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park.
*, who has not run since finishing third in the Belmont Stakes last June 9, will face four rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race which will serve as a prep for the $500,000, Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 9. It will go as race six on the 12-race card with an approximate post of 3:05 p.m. Eastern.
"I am at the point - and I knew I'd get to this point - I either had to run him or lay him on the fence hard to get the tightness I needed to have a credible performance in the Donn," Ward said. "It's so much easier to have a race than drill them all the time. If I get a good race all I have to do is get a little maintenance work to come back in the Donn."
Monarchos is returning to the track on which he won three races last winter including the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Jorge Chavez, his regular rider, will be aboard Monarchos from post 3.
Monarchos, whose final time of 1:59.97 is the second-fastest winning Kentucky Derby time, was diagnosed with a hairline fracture of his right knee following the Belmont. After getting several months off, he resumed training in the fall and began working at Churchill Downs before shipping here.
Monarchos has had seven workouts at Gulfstream including a five-furlong move in 1:01.80 last Saturday.
"He got [fit] like I thought he would," Ward said. "The other thing about this race is it gave me the opportunity that if we had a hiccup someplace we still had the Donn to fall back on. Still, I think a four-other-than is a real tough condition. He still has a license to run and get tired. But, I'd much rather him get the final bit of fitness in race conditions than have to do it in the mornings."
Among the challengers Monarchos will face in the $40,000 race is Mongoose, a winner of two straight allowance races in New York last fall for trainer Bill Mott. Mongoose, now under the care of James Bond, won the Cradle Stakes as a 2-year-old.
Trainer Nick Zito will send out Regal Shivers, winner of last year's Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct, while Mott sends out Proper Man, who has not been out since winning a third-level allowance race here last Feb. 9.
Watch Your Pennies, winless in five starts last year, but a stakes-winner in 2000, completes the field.
Take Charge Lady breezes
Take Charge Lady, winner of the Grade 2 Alcibiades last October, breezed four furlongs in 49.20 seconds Thursday morning as she prepares for her 3-year-old debut. However, her return will not come in the Forward Gal on Jan. 27, but more likely in the $100,000 Davona Dale on Feb. 24.
"I would love to run her seven-eighths, but I don't have time to make that first race," McPeek said. "The Davona Dale should be a good spot."
It was the second breeze for Take Charge Lady since arriving in South Florida. McPeek said he gave Take Charge Lady four weeks on a farm following second-place finish in the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs.
"Tony [D'Amico] said she feels very good under him right now, stronger than she did in the fall," McPeek said. "He said the same thing about Harlan's Holiday. Let's hope he's right."
Party Queen has big future
Party Queen made it 2 for 2 with a powerful come-from-behind victory in a preliminary allowance race on the grass on Wednesday. Despite breaking slowly from an outside post and having to rally wide in the stretch, Party Queen stormed home a 2 3/4-length winner under Mark Guidry. Her final time of 1:39.14 was quicker than Dame Sylvieguilhem's 1:39.89 in winning the other division.
"She pretty much ran the same race as the first time she ran," trainer Victoria Oliver said. "I was a little worried cutting back in distance but she showed she could get a mile. I know she'll go further, she's pretty versatile."
Oliver said she was not sure whether Party Queen would run back in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 3 or wait for a second-level allowance race later in the meet.
Party Queen is a daughter of Cozzene out of Miss Lenora, making her a half-sister to the stakes-placed runners Tangazi and Stylish. G. Watts Humphrey bought Party Queen for $190,000 out of the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Mr. Pleasentfar to skip Mac Diarmida
Trainer Marty Wolfson has decided to pass Sunday's $100,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap with Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap winner Mr. Pleasentfar to await the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb. 16.
Mr. Pleasentfar finished 11th after getting trapped behind a slow pace in Calder's Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap in his 2001 finale. A Group 1 winner in his native Brazil, 5-year-old Mr. Pleasentfar upset Eltawaasul to win the Red Smith in his first start against graded stakes company since arriving in this country last summer.
"He didn't have the best of trips in the McKnight," said Wolfson. "I wanted him on the lead when the pace was so slow."
Wolfson said the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup will be Mr. Pleasentfar's only start here this winter.
"After his next race he's going to Saudi Arabia to run in the Dubai Sheema Classic, which is on the undercard for the Dubai World Cup," said Wolfson. "The race is at a mile and one half, which is perfect for him, and has a $2 million purse. Representatives from Dubai have already been here to help us make the arrangements for his trip."
Boulanger then and now
When Mic Mac rallied from far back to upset Thursday's fourth race, it gave jockey Gary Boulanger his fourth winner of the meet. For Boulanger, simply being able to ride full time at Gulfstream again makes him feel like a winner.
Boulanger was among the leading riders here during the opening month of the 1999 meeting when he suffered two cracked vertebra in his back. The injury required major surgery and kept him sidelined over a year. He has ridden full time during the last two summers at Woodbine in his native Canada but missed the majority of the 2001 Gulfstream meet because of the strain year-round riding had put on his injured back.
"My back feels pretty good now," said Boulanger. "I still get some muscle soreness now and then but nothing serious. My business was real strong here when I got hurt and obviously I've lost a lot of that business. But everyone has been very receptive this winter, and it's just a matter of getting the right horses to ride."
Boulanger recorded the biggest victory of his riding career last summer, in Woodbine's prestigious Queen's Plate aboard Sovereign Award winner Dancethruthedawn.
"Winning the Queen's Plate was the highlight of my career, without a doubt," said Boulanger. "For a Canadian it's like winning the Kentucky Derby, and no matter what else happens it's something they'll never be able to take away from me."
- additional reporting by Mike Welsch
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