Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon met for a sixth time in 53 weeks Saturday night at Fair Grounds in the $150,000 Louisiana S. (G3), and the rivalry’s increasing lopsidedness continued in favor of Mandaloun, who registered the victory while overcoming a six-month layoff.
Under Florent Geroux, Mandaloun wore down Midnight Bourbon inside the final furlong to win by three parts of a length in his first outing since winning the Haskell (G1) last July via disqualification. Mandaloun has beaten Midnight Bourbon in four of their showdowns, though one of those losses was the result of the latter losing his rider in the Haskell.
Favored at 9-10 in the Louisiana, Mandaloun rated in third to the far turn before challenging Midnight Bourbon, who had had a comfortable lead to that point. The pair battled closely down the stretch before Mandaloun pulled away late.
“I think he’s more polished mentally,” trainer Brad Cox said of Mandaloun.
Mandaloun completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.52 over a fast track and paid $3.80. The two four-year-olds were well clear of the rest, as the Cox-trained Warrant finished 8 1/4 lengths behind Midnight Bourbon in third. Spa City, Sprawl, and Pirate’s Punch completed the order of finish.
The $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) on Feb. 26 has been discussed as Mandaloun’s primary winter goal, though Cox said officially committing to the race would come later.
“I’ve always thought this horse would like one turn if we ever shortened him back up. The Saudi Cup is a (one-turn) mile and an eighth, so I think it’s something he could definitely handle,” Cox said.
Victorious in his first two outings before his third-place finish to Midnight Bourbon in the 2021 Lecomte (G3), Mandaloun subsequently won the Risen Star (G2) before running a dull sixth in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Rebounding with a strong second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Mandaloun skipped the rest of the Triple Crown and narrowly won the Pegasus S. at Monmouth Park in his mid-June comeback.
Mandaloun was elevated to first in the Haskell after Hot Rod Charlie was disqualified for causing the interference that resulted in Midnight Bourbon losing his rider. His record now stands at 9-6-1-1, $1,741,252.
By Into Mischief, Mandaloun was produced by the Group 2-winning Brooch, a daughter of Empire Maker.