Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Whatever Happened to Derby Winner Monarchos?

You might think that winning the Kentucky Derby leads a horse to a life of luxury at Coolmore or Winstar, with constant grooming, breeding, attention, and huge stud fees for the owners?  Well, maybe for some.  Yes, American Pharoah is living the high life, for now.  So is Uncle Mo, who did not even race in the Derby.  But horse racing and breeding is a business and sadly, at the end of the day, it's all about the money. 

So what happened to Monarchos, who won the 2001 Derby, faster than any other horse but Secretariat?

Monarchos died in October 2016 in Kentucky at 18, old yes, but not terribly old. He underwent colic surgery but did not survive.  At his death, his stud fee was a meager $2000.  He was still owned by John Oxley who bought him as a two-year-old and owns many race horses including Classic Empire one of the 2017 Derby favorites.  You can view a short video about Monarchos here

Monarchos' greatest achievement by far was winning the Derby and he never again ran as fast as he did that day.  He foaled 512 horses, 349 raced and they produced 244 winner (48 percent) who earned over $19 million.  He sired the 2009 champion filly sprinter, Informed Decision and 2009 Scandinavian champion 2-year-old colt Aces Star.  He was bred by the former editor of the Chicago Tribune, J.D. Squires, who really knew nothing about breeding race horses and his book Horse of a Different Color is worth reading. It's well-written and a good read if like reading about breeding and race horses. 

The horse was sold to John Oxley for $170,000 who sent him to trainer John Ward. He won the Florida Derby and was second in the Wood Memorial when he was three which took him to the Kentucky Derby.  He was sixth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont. Bob Baffert-trained Point Given won both the Preakness and the Belmont after a terrible start in the Derby.  Monarchos raced only once at 4, finishing third in a Gulfstream Park allowance race and was retired with earnings of $1.7 million.  He went to stud at Claiborne Farm in Paris, KY.  His initial stud fee was $25,000.  At some point he was moved to Nuckols Farm where he continued to stand at stud and he died there last year.  He was well cared for and loved there even though his famous star had faded over the years just like his gray coat.  Monarchos had a good life overall but never seemed to prove himself as a great sire despite his one day of greatness in early May 2001.  He had his one day in the sun in May that will forever be remembered. 


  1. He was kept in a paddock next to the Nuckols' home, and we'd slow down when we drove by and say "Hi Handsome!". Nuckols said he was the first and last horse he would see everyday, and he would never keep another horse in his paddock. It's been empty ever since.

  2. That's one lucky horse to have that kind of love in his life forever.


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