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Team Oxley no sudden success

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - John Oxley was still celebrating the victory of his Monarchos in Saturday's 127th running of the Kentucky Derby when he glanced up at the tote board and realized his "other" Derby entry, Invisible Ink, had finished second.

John Oxley
Owner John Oxley (second from right) celebrates the victory of his Monarchos in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Oxley is one of several partners who own an interest in Invisible Ink.

"I was so focused on watching Monarchos I had no idea Invisible Ink had finished second," said Oxley, while still accepting congratulations from well-wishers an hour after the race. "Then I saw the objection sign go up and I remember thinking why am I claiming foul against myself?"

The foul claim was dismissed, which was fine with Oxley.

"I'm pretty good at math and I know 1.0 is a lot better than 0.24," Oxley said, referring to the fact that he owns 100 percent of Monarchos and just 24 percent of Invisible Ink.

The one-two finish by Monarchos and Invisible Ink gives Oxley the distinction of becoming the first owner to have an interest in the Derby win and place finishers since Calumet Farm did it with Citation and Coaltown in 1948. In all, there are now four owners in Derby history to finish one-two.

In previous years, Monarchos and Invisible Ink would have been coupled in the wagering because of Oxley's involvement with both horses. But a new law passed this year allowed them to compete as separate betting interests on Saturday.

Monarchos's victory began a nightlong celebration and ended a near lifelong dream for Oxley, who attended his first Kentucky Derby in 1954.

"I've been around Thoroughbreds all my life. My mother used to ride me and my sis to school on her Thoroughbred mare Ginger from the time I went to kindergarten," said the 64-year-old Oxley, who was born and raised in Tulsa, Okla. "Dad played polo when I was a teenager and took me to my first Derby when I was in high school. It was great experience and began a connection that has lasted to this day."

Oxley is the owner and president of Oxley Petroleum, an oil and gas exploration company based in Tulsa.

"I bought my first horse when I was in my thirties," Oxley recalled.

"The next year I bought two more, one of whom became Florida champion. I was hooked by then although the business had ups and downs during the seventies and eighties so it wasn't until the nineties, when I had more of a bankroll, that I really was able to become more serious."

Oxley along with his wife, Debby, became one of the sport's most notable owners during the past decade although the bulk of that success came with fillies. Among them are Gal in a Ruckus, winner of the 1995 Kentucky Oaks, and Beautiful Pleasure, the 1999 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner and Eclipse Award champion older filly or mare.

"Gal in a Ruckus delivered us the highest reward, winning the Oaks - but the Derby has always been my dream, although it seemed so out of reach," Oxley said. "We went to the Derby with a couple of colts who didn't belong [Jambalaya Jazz and Pyramid Peak] in 1995 just to be there. But we were able to learn so much more about how to approach the race successfully. The next time we were fortunate enough a have a horse of Derby caliber."

Oxley said Ward first told him he thought Monarchos was of that caliber after the colt's second start.

"John called and said this colt really showed him something the way he closed so dramatically that day," said Oxley. "And I give John all the credit because once he knew Monarchos had that kind of potential he showed great patience. He designed a plan, stuck with it, and that's the main reason why we are here celebrating now."