Adding blinkers for Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star S. (G2) after a slightly disappointing third as an odds-on choice in last month’s Lecomte (G3), Mandaloun turned in a more confident effort in the 1 1/8-mile test at Fair Grounds while virtually ensuring a spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) starting gate on May 1.
“I think the blinkers did help him,” trainer Brad Cox said. “Much more focused, more focused in the post parade, focused on his job.”
The Jan. 16 Lecomte, in which Mandaloun was beaten a length after two sprint wins in Kentucky last season, proved a needed learning experience in Cox’s estimation.
“More than anything, it was the experience of having the race going two turns under his belt,” he said.
Working out an ideal trip under Florent Geroux, Mandaloun rated in third and was never more than a couple lengths behind pacesetter Rightandjust, who was steadily pressed by Lecomte winner Midnight Bourbon.
Approaching the turn for home, both Midnight Bourbon and Mandaloun edged clear of the tiring Rightandjust, and it was Mandaloun who was going best in the final three-sixteenths. The Juddmonte Farms homebred opened up late and won by 1 1/4 lengths from a rallying Proxy, the Lecomte runner-up, with Midnight Bourbon a half-length behind in third.
The 2-1 favorite in the field of 12, Mandaloun paid $6.20 after completing 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:50.39. He earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, increasing his total to 52. Proxy earned 20 points, increasing his total to 24, while Midnight Bourbon’s 10 points increased his total 26.
Completing the order of finish were O Besos, who earned five qualifying points, Senor Buscador, Rightandjust, Santa Cruiser, Sermononthemount, Starrininmydreams, Carillo, and Beep Beep.
A half-length winner of his debut at Keeneland going six furlongs last October, Mandaloun followed up with a 1 1/4-length allowance score at Churchill Downs going seven furlongs prior to his stakes debut in the Lecomte. Connections will now look at next month’s Louisiana Derby (G2) over 1 3/16 miles for the colt’s final Kentucky Derby prep.
“He’s got the physical makeup of a mile-and-a-quarter horse, so we’re optimistic he’ll get better with more ground,” Cox said.
Bred in Kentucky, Mandaloun is by Into Mischief and out of the Group 2-winning Brooch, by Empire Maker. He’s now earned $351,252.