Mandaloun Strengthens Cox’s Derby Hand With Risen Star Victory

Racing with blinkers for the first time in his fourth career start, Juddmonte Farms Inc.’s Mandaloun – a homebred colt by Into Mischief – overtook Midnight Bourbon in mid-stretch, then held off a late charge from Proxy to win Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La.

Ridden by Florent Geroux, Mandaloun is trained by Brad Cox, who now has three strong prospects for the Kentucky Derby, including last year’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and 2-year-old champion, Essential Quality and Caddo River, who won the Smarty Jones Stakes on opening day of the Oaklawn meet in Arkansas.

Mandaloun ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.39 and paid $6.20 as the favorite. Proxy, a Tapit colt owned and bred by Godolphin, finished second, a half length ahead of Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon in third. O Besos was 5 3/4 lengths back in fourth and 5-2 second choice Senor Buscador fifth in the field of 11 3-year-olds. Defeater and Keepmeinmind were scratched. All starters carried 122 pounds and all competed without the race-day anti-bleeder medication Lasix, a requirement for horses to earn Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

The first four finishers received 50-20-10-5 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

Updated Kentucky Derby leaderboard

Rightandjust, breaking from the outside post position, rushed up to take the early lead from Midnight Bourbon, who was coming a front-running victory over Proxy and Mandaloun last out in the G3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. Rightandjust set fractions of :23.65, :48.45 and 1:12.74 for the opening six furlongs.

Midnight Bourbon was just to the outside of Rightandjust’s flank heading into the far turn, Mandaloun just behind that pair, and Proxy to his inside.

Midnight Bourbon edged to the lead inside the quarter pole and was confronted by Mandaloun at the furlong grounds after a mile in 1:37.50. Under aggressive handling by Geroux, Mandaloun put away Midnight Bourbon in the final sixteenth of a mile and had enough to withstand a late charge from Proxy.

“Blinkers on was a difference-maker today for sure,” said Geroux. “We knew he needed it racing, but he’s been winning without them. He’s always been a little funny down the lane. He’s never given me his full potential. Today we had the same kind of trip we had in the Lecomte, but when I pushed on the gas today, he responded right away. Last time I feel like he wasn’t giving me his best. He was a little more focused. No problem with the distance. We always thought he had the attitude and the pedigree to go further. It’s not like I was saving ground all the way around and he got a little bit short at the end. I was pretty much three-wide all the way around there. I think the longer distance is definitely not going to be a problem for him.”

“More than anything, it was just the experience of having the race going two turns under his belt,” Cox said of Mandaloun. “He’s had two great works since so we expected him to move forward, the way he was training. I think the blinkers did help out. Florent immediately made a comment after the race. Much more focused in the post parade, more focused on his job. We didn’t put a bunch of cup on him, just like a one-inch cup, but it seems to have done the trick to get him mentally over the top, mentally getting him where he needs to be. It (the Louisiana Derby) is definitely going to be in play. We will talk it over with Garrett O’Rourke and the Juddmonte team and come up with a game plan. I’m very proud of the colt. He stepped up and ran a big race today. That (nine furlongs) is a big ask at any time for a Thoroughbred, and then to do it in February of your 3-year-old year. Garrett has made the comment several times that he thinks he’s a mile-and-a-quarter-horse and he trains like one. He’s got enough speed to be close and he stays on. He’s got the physical make-up of a mile-and-a-quarter horse so we’re optimistic he’ll get better with more ground.”

Michael Stidham, who trains runner-up Proxy, said he was pleased with the colt’s race.

“We all know that we’re all hoping that we can be as good as we can be on a certain day (for the Kentucky Derby),” Stidham said. “He’s inching in the right direction. I talked to Johnny (Velazquez) and his first impression was maybe blinkers. You can see going into the turn he dropped back like he was out and done. And then Johnny had to get after him, and when he did, he engaged again, then it looked like we might even get to the winner. He said if he just holds his position on the turn, he thinks we would have won. So again, I think it’s a little bit of greenness and running a little spotty. The main thing is you want them to come out of these races healthy, you have something to work with, and you can inch forward and culminate for the big day in May. We’ll experiment with the blinkers in the morning and if we feel like it’s an added improvement, we’ll try. The (March 20) Louisiana Derby would be the obvious next spot if he’s healthy and ready to go. I asked Johnny and he thought the added distance was going to continue to help him, rather than hurt him, and that’s huge at this stage.”

“He made a solid run. He faced a little more pace pressure this time than he did in the Lecomte. But I think you see the top-3 there are extremely tough horses and are going to be heard from again.”

Midnight Bourbon’s jockey, Joe Talamo, was impressed with the fight his mount showed down the stretch. “I was smiling the whole way,” Talamo said. “He still has some upside. Obviously the winner got to me and went by, but what impressed me the most was he was still fighting the whole way. A lot of horses, when they get passed, they cave in, but he was still fighting. I still believe the further the better with him. You’re never going to get everything your own way but the other horse (sixth-place finisher Rightandjust) was going pretty hard, and that didn’t help us. I would have liked to have sat a little off, but that first eighth (of a mile) didn’t help but I was proud of him.”

Produced from the Empire Maker broodmare, Brooch, a Group 2 winner in Ireland, Mandaloun was winning for the third time in four starts. He won on debut at Keeneland last October going six furlongs, then added a seven-furlong allowance victory at Churchill Downs the following month. The Lecome on Jan. 16 was his initial two-turn test and 2021 debut.

The post Mandaloun Strengthens Cox’s Derby Hand With Risen Star Victory appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

DYFD Winter - 300x90

Comments are closed.