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2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos dies at 18

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MIDWAY, Ky. (AP) Monarchos, whose Kentucky Derby-winning time in 2001 was second only to Secretariat, has died. He was 18.

Nuckols Farm owner Charles Nuckols III confirmed Tuesday that Monarchos died early Saturday after emergency surgery the day before to repair a ruptured intestine.

The grey son of Maria’s Mon and Regal Band by Dixieland Band won four races with a second and three thirds in 10 starts from 2000-2002 and earned more than $1.72 million. Monarchos’ greatest triumph came in the 2001 Derby at Churchill Downs, where he was bumped by Point Given at the start and came from the outside at the stretch to catch Congaree and win by 4 3/4 lengths over Invisible Ink with Congaree third.

His time of 1:59.97 with Jorge Chavez aboard was just behind the 1973 Triple Crown champion’s record 1:59.40.

BloodHorse first reported Monarchos’ passing.

“We didn’t think that much about his time at the time because we were trying to get to the winner’s circle,” Nuckols said. “It didn’t hit us until an hour afterward.”

Monarchos went on to finish sixth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes. He closed his career as a 4-year-old with a third in an allowance race at Gulfstream.

The Kentucky-bred did not sell until his 2-year-old season when John C. Oxley bought him for $170,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida February sale. Monarchos retired to stud at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky before moving to Nuckols Farm. He sired winners of over $19 million including 2009 Eclipse Award champion female sprinter Informed Decision.

“He was as happy as he could be,” Nuckols said of the horse’s years at his farm. “He was so friendly and easy to get along with. We ran out of guest books because so many people wanted to see him. He was a great horse.”

Nuckols said Monarchos was buried at his farm next to Mr. Leader, another stakes winner.

Wood Memorial boosts purse to attract top horses

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NEW YORK — The Wood Memorial purse could increase to $1 million as part of a bonus created to entice the top 3-year-olds to run in the Kentucky Derby prep on April 7.

New York Racing Association officials said Saturday that the presence of any horse in the field with a previous Grade 1 or Group 1 victory would increase the purse from $750,000 to $1 million if the qualifying horse starts. In that case, the winner would receive $590,000, the runner-up would earn $190,000 and third would be worth $90,000.

The Wood is run at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct. The race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep series that awards 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth. The top 20 horses on the leaderboard earn starting spots in the Derby on May 5.

Jack Van Berg dies at 81

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Jack Van Berg, a Hall of Fame trainer who oversaw Alysheba to victories in the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, died Wednesday. He was 81.

He died in a Little Rock, Arkansas, hospital, according to a spokeswoman for Oaklawn Park, where Van Berg had relocated his training base after leaving Southern California in 2013. No cause was given.

Van Berg ranks fourth all-time among trainers in North America, with 6,523 victories from 41,164 starts, according to Equibase. He had career purse earnings of $85,925,482.

In the Derby, Alysheba and jockey Chris McCarron were nearly knocked down at the top of the stretch by Bet Twice. Alysheba recovered and won despite having just one career victory before the Run for the Roses. Alysheba won the Preakness to set up a try for the Triple Crown but finished fourth in the Belmont.

As a 4-year-old, Alysheba won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic and went on to earn the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Van Berg saddled Gate Dancer to victory in the 1984 Preakness. That same year, he earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer.

Van Berg was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1985. His father, trainer Marion Van Berg, already was there, having entered in 1970.

From 1959-77, Van Berg was the leading trainer at Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1976, he won a record 496 races and was the nation’s leading trainer, with $2,976,196 in purse earnings.

In 1987, Van Berg became the first trainer to win 5,000 races when he saddle Art’s Chandelle to victory at Arlington Park outside Chicago.

He trained in Southern California for 41 years until moving to Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas, after Hollywood Park closed in December 2013. Van Berg blamed the cities of Inglewood and Los Angeles and the state of California for the track’s closure.

“I just think it’s a pathetic thing,” he said at the time. “It’s ridiculous to let something like this that so many people love and thrive on close. They did everything they could to kill racing. I’ve had enough. I don’t like California racing anymore. I don’t like the way they run it and what they do.”

Van Berg mentored Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who began as an assistant to him.

Born June 7, 1936, in Columbus, Nebraska, John Charles Van Berg began training for his father in the 1960s. The elder Van Berg trained nearly 1,500 winners but was more successful as an owner, winning 4,691 races and $13,936,965. He was the first inductee of the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame, and his son followed him.