February 23, 2024

Mandaloun seeks to make strong first stakes impression in Lecomte

Mandaloun wins an allowance on the "Stars of Tomorrow II" card (Coady Photo/Churchill Downs)

Lecomte Stakes — Race 13 (6:40 p.m. ET)

He already has presumptive juvenile champion Essential Quality in the barn at Fair Grounds, but trainer Brad Cox wouldn’t mind having more than one serious Kentucky Derby (G1) player in his New Orleans shedrow. Mandaloun could prove one of them as the Juddmonte Farms homebred tackles stakes company for the first time on Saturday in the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3).

A homebred racing for Juddmonte Farms, Mandaloun enters the 1 1/16-mile Lecomte off two overnight sprint victories at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, the latter a 7-furlong allowance on Nov. 28 which the son of Into Mischief won by 1 1 /4 lengths.

“We’ve always felt he was cut out to be a two-turn horse based on his physical make-up and how he trains,” Cox said. “It shows how much talent he’s got to be able to win his first two races at sprint distances and now we’re going to do what we’ve thought he’s wanted to do all along, and that’s go long.”

Several other stakes newcomers will bear watching in the Lecomte. Two are trained by Mike Stidham, who’ll sends out two-time winner Proxy for Godolphin and possibly Manor House, a 12 1/4-length debut winner over a mile at Laurel who was also cross-entered in an allowance at Fair Grounds on Saturday. Proxy has already won twice at the young Fair Grounds meet, most recently a 1 1/16-mile allowance by 2 1/2 lengths on Dec. 19.

“He’s like a big, immature kid who is still learning with racing,” Stidham said. “Last time when he won, he was a little green about switching leads coming down the lane, but once he leveled off, he drew away at the end, so we were pleased with that.

“We were deciding whether to run him back in this race or wait for a race like the Risen Star (G2). We felt like he’s a big, healthy, strong colt and we thought the experience of running would do him more good than working three of four more times waiting for the Risen Star.”

Like Manor House, Beep Beep is cross-entered in the Lecomte and a 1 1/16-mile allowance on Saturday’s card. The son of the recently deceased Tapizar won decisively by more than three lengths in his 7-furlog debut at the end of the Churchill Downs fall meet for trainer Norm Casse.

Among those Lecomte contenders with prior stakes experience, Midnight Bourbon and Arabian Prince figure to get the strongest looks. Midnight Bourbon has earned six Kentucky Derby qualifying points already following a second in the Iroquois (G3) and a distant third in the Champagne (G1). Arabian Prince won on debut at Churchill during Kentucky Derby week in September and followed up with a fourth in the Street Sense S. and a third in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2).

The Lecomte offers qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the respective top four finishers as part of the 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby series.