Mandate Earns 94 Beyer Speed Figure, First Stakes Victory In Saturday’s Artie Schiller

Mandate rallied three-wide under Andrew Wolfsont to secure a 44-1 upset in Saturday’s $150,000 Artie Schiller, a one-mile inner turf test for 3-year-olds and up at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, N.Y.

The victory marked a first stakes win for both Mandate and his 48-year-old conditioner Robert Johnston, who is based at Penn National as private trainer for owner Bruno Schickedanz.

“When I saw him make his move at the three-eighths pole, my wife and I were screaming,” Johnston said. “The further he came down the lane I could see he had found his best stride and was kicking on.”

Johnston said the victory was made all the more special given the company he was keeping in a field with horses trained by Hall of Famers Todd Pletcher, Mark Casse, and Shug McGaughey as well as four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown.

“When you come up from Penn National, you’re the underdog,” Johnston said. “Going up against those guys was a little overwhelming. You need everything to go right – and it did.”

The victory also continued a lucky streak for the trainer-jockey combo that Johnston said he is hopeful will continue in Mandate’s next start in the $95,000 Claiming Crown Emerald on December 4 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

“Andrew has rode four horses out of town for me and won all four,” Johnston said. “Hopefully, we can keep that going. He won two at Delaware, one at Laurel, and one at Aqueduct now.”

Mandate exited the outermost post in the Artie Schiller and although last-of-9 at first call, he was handled confidently throughout by Wolfsont as Rinaldi led a closely-bunched field through moderate splits over good going.

Wolfsont edged Mandate closer through the final turn and rallied outside of graded-stakes winner Tell Your Daddy to notch a 1 3/4-length win, garnering a career-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure.

“Once they straightened up on the backside, everybody grouped up and it was probably only six lengths from first to last,” Johnston said. “He said he was dragging him there and he had a lot of horse. He’s just a good, happy horse right now.”

Mandate made his stakes debut in the Artie Schiller out of a rallying starter allowance score on October 10 traveling 1 1/16-miles over firm turf at Laurel Park in Laurel, Md. That score, at odds of 16-1, was also accomplished from the outermost post 9 with Wolfsont at the helm.

“We had him six weeks up until to that Laurel race and Andrew breezed him twice and both times were like, ‘Wow,’” Johnston said. “He won that race at Laurel and then he breezed him before the Aqueduct race about 10 days out and he came off the track and said, ‘This is the best horse I’ve worked in my life.’ He had a lot of confidence in the horse and how well he was doing. He gave him a great ride.”

A 4-year-old son of Blame out of the Empire Maker mare Bonnie’s Empire, Mandate was purchased for $200,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Initially campaigned by Pletcher, Mandate was claimed by trainer Wayne Potts for Schickedanz for $25,000 out of a runner-up effort in May at Belmont. Mandate made five starts for Potts before Schickedanz sent him to Johnston for a freshening.

“When he came to my barn we gave him a couple weeks of downtime before we got him back training. He’s for sure the best horse I’ve ever had in my barn,” Johnston said.

Johnston said Mandate is more than just the star of his 18-horse stable.

“This horse was a $200,000 baby and meant to be good, but he’s also a barn favorite,” Johnston said. “He’s in the first stall and my wife’s first two steps into the barn each morning she has to go cuddle and hug him. He’s just that kind of horse and he’s cool to be around.”

Johnston entered Mandate in the Laurel race in preparation for the Claiming Crown, but he credits Schickedanz with the vision to try their luck in New York.

“I thought if he was competitive at Laurel he could go down there [for the Claiming Crown] – but he won it. So, Bruno said, ‘Let’s look for a stakes in New York,’ – and that’s why he’s the boss,” Johnston said, with a laugh.

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Johnston, the son of Woodbine and Fort Erie-based trainer C.R. Johnston, launched his career under his father’s tutelage before expanding his horizons under Woodbine-based conditioner Mike DePaulo.

“I always say that from my dad I learned the old school and from Mike I learned the new school,” Johnston said. “I worked for Mike for years and went to a lot of tracks for him. He was the first one to call me yesterday when he went by the wire.”

Johnston said Mandate traveled home to Penn National on Saturday evening and was in good order Sunday morning. The newly-minted stakes-winning trainer said he will follow the advice of his mentor and ship Mandate to Florida in the very near future.

“Mike has spent a lot of winters in Florida and he told me shipping 10 days before isn’t enough time,” Johnston said. “You need to go early to adjust to the weather, so I’d rather go sooner than later and be there.”

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