(Mandaloun wins the G3 Louisiana Stakes in comeback effort / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Fair Grounds Media Team:

In 2021 as 3-year-olds, Juddmonte’s Mandaloun and Winchell Thoroughbred’s Midnight Bourbon faced each other on five occasions with the former holding the upper hand. In Saturday’s $150,000 Louisiana (G3) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots they met yet again, this time as older horses, and once again the verdict landed in Mandaloun’s favor.

Running for the first time since winning the Haskell (G1) via the disqualification of Hot Rod Charlie on July 17, Mandaloun returned to the scene of his Lecomte (G3) defeat to Midnight Bourbon virtually one year ago to the day. A lot has happened between then and now, but based on the Saturday’s result, the connections of both horses have a lot to look forward to.

Away alertly from the rail post with regular pilot Florent Geroux in tow, the .90-1 favorite Mandaloun sat third in the pocket behind the newly blinkered Midnight Bourbon, who set a reasonable pace of 24.39 and 48.25 as the defined second choice (1.20-1). Taking over the pursuers roll from the fading Sprawl with a half mile yet to run while well in hand, the son of Into Mischief collared Midnight Bourbon just outside the quarter-pole, and one heck of a battle raged from there. The Brad Cox-trained Mandaloun slowly wore down his stubborn rival, edging away late to prevail by ¾ of a length in a sharp final time of 1:42.52 for the 1 1/16 mile journey, which was nearly a second faster than the 3-year-old Call Me Midnight ran in the Lecomte (G3) one race later. It was another 8 ¼ lengths back to Warrant, Cox’s other Louisiana entrant, in third.

“Very pleased with him, it was what we were expecting,” Geroux said. “There was a long layoff and we had to run a very good horse down in front of us. The first thing I thought coming back from the race was that he was a lot sharper mentally. Last year I felt he had a lot more in him but he was not willing to give it to me, but in this race when I pushed the button and turned on the gas, he was right there for me. The first asking, the first time I hit him with a stick, he just responded very well right away. I thought we were finishing very fast at the end and that was a very nice horse race.”

Midnight Bourbon, who hasn’t won since last year’s Lecomte, ran his losing streak to nine consecutive races. Trainer Steve Asmussen added blinkers hoping the equipment change would help the 4-year-old son of Tiznow take his game to the next level. It very well might have, but on this day, he was narrowly second best in a valiant performance.

“He has speed, he’s fast, he broke nice, he did everything right,” Rosario said. “It felt like we were running. He felt nice and focused. That was a fast race. That was a really good race. Second best today.”

The winner of last year’s Risen Star (G2) presented by Lamarque Ford and the eventual runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, Mandaloun is now a boasts a record of 9-6-1-1 with $1,721,252 in the bank.

“This is a very big colt for them and I hope he’ll have a big 2022,” trainer Brad Cox said of Mandaloun. “I think he is very polished mentally. Physically he is definitely better than he was last year. He’s grown he’s filled out. He’s supposed to, he’s a year older. I think he took a big step forward off a layoff and ran down a very good horse that was on the lead. Hopefully we can build off this if we are going to have the year we are expecting to have.”

As far as future plans go, the $20 million Saudi Cup on February 26 has been mentioned.

“We’ll let the dust settle and we’ll hit the huddle up (with Juddmonte) and come up with a game plan but it (the Saudi Cup) is very possible. He is a good colt. I always thought this horse would really like one turn if we ever shorten him back up. The Saudi Cup is 1 1/18 mile so it’s something I think he can definitely handle. I am excited to get this race underneath him. Take a deep breath now. Running a horse off a layoff sometimes can be a little nerve wracking but overall, it was a good performance. I am very proud of this horse.” — Kristufek

 

(Cowan in the post parade — which was the only time he was in front of Just Might / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

Cowan the Adjudicated Winner of the Duncan F. Kenner

Just Might crosses the finish line much the best, but is disqualified for backstretch interference

Having won consecutive Fair Grounds stakes and six of his last seven overall, Michelle Lovell (trainer) and Grifton Farm’s Just Might actually ran as well, if not better, than he had in any of those races in Saturday’s $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner. Unfortunately, a small problem turned into a big one.

As he was attempting to clear the field early on the backstretch, the 1.10-1 favorite Just Might and jockey Colby Hernandez came inward slightly, forcing William and Corrine Heiligbrodt, Madaket Stables and Spendthrift Farm’s Cowan into Built Wright Stables’ Sir Alfred James, who checked hard against the rail. Following a steward’s inquiry, Just Might was placed eighth and last.

“He broke good and I thought he was clear,” Hernandez said. “I guess looking at it we weren’t clear enough to come down at that point, and we got taken down.”

Just Might would complete the gate to wire voyage while well in hand, setting fractions of 22.52 and 45.69 over a “good” Fair Grounds turf before stopping the timer in 1:03.40 for 5 ½ furlongs. Cowan (4.30-1) and jockey Joel Rosario chased throughout and finished 2 ¾ lengths behind Just Might. It was 2 ½ lengths back to Lovell’s other horse Strike Me Down in third.

“I feel like the horse on the outside (Just Might) came over a little bit and was putting a little pressure on,” Rosario said. “It looked a little tight in there and having someone on the inside I did the best I could do. The one (Sir Alfred James) got too close, so we bumped him. My horse ran really well after I checked.”

Cowan ran extremely well sprinting on turf early in his career, posting a pair of stakes placings in advance of a runner-up performance behind the monster Golden Pal in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2). On dirt, he has a runner-up performance in the Springboard Mile, the Smarty Jones and the Saudi Derby on his resume. The last time he ran on turf he finished tenth in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) at Meydan.

“We hadn’t had a chance to run him back on grass (in the States) since the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Turf Sprint). “He kept good company as a 2-year old. It’s nice to see him back on the grass. I liked this race. I feel bad for Michelle (Just Might’s trainer Lovell) but those happen and you move forward.”

Cowan’s record now stands at 13-3-6-1 with career earnings of $826,602.

The disappointment in the race was 2.70-1 second choice Manny Wah, who finished a dull sixth of eight.

“He felt great,” jockey Corey Lanerie said. “I was expecting a big race. He warmed up great. When I tipped him out, I thought I was going to run up to him (Just Might) and be first or second, but today wasn’t his today. He didn’t fire his race so we’ll throw it out and go from there.” — Kristufek

(Forty Under gets up at the wire / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

Forty Under Times it Right as Battlers Bob to the Bradley Wire  

Speed signs on for Bradley but lone runner sends

Billed as a potential pace meltdown, the connections of the ten fillies and mares who ran in the 39th edition of the $100,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley decided otherwise. In the end, front-minded runs paid off and no closers were to be found in the top three. Favorite Two Emmys led by as many as two lengths in the stretch, but it was Three Diamonds’ Forty Under who battled and bobbed for the longshot score.

When the field broke evenly, the jockey’s race began. Reins in hand and waiting to see who would send, jockey James Graham took his grade one stakes winning lukewarm 2.60-1 favorite Two Emmys to the front setting early fractions of 23.73 and 48.63 over a turf course rated “good”. 16.40-1 longshot Forty Under, ridden by Mitchell Murrill, sat just off the pace while pressing two-wide. To his inside jockey Joel Rosario rode 3.60-1 Halo Again on the rail. Forty Under shifted out in the stretch and began his move on the leader while Halo Again popped off the rail, chased, caught and battled him home. In the final strides, Two Emmys two-length stretch lead had vanished, and a head bob at 1:43.45 sealed it for the Michael Maker-trained Forty Under over Halo Again. It was the trainer’s first win from 26 starts at Fair Grounds this season.

“Going through the PPs, he’s not a really big strong finishing horse,” Murrill said. He stays one-paced. I figured if I can get him up close early coming from the 12 hole I can have a decent chance of getting him home. For a second [Halo Again] passed me. I picked him back up and [Forty Under] stuck his head out first.”

Two Emmys finished ¾ lengths back in third, and it was the rail riding 8.00-1 Own Agenda who chased them home for fourth. Steve Asmussen’s Halo Again’s first appearance on turf was his wire-to-wire win in December’s Diliberto Stakes, but Rosario had different tactics in mind.

“My tactics were different because I saw there was a little more speed [in this race] than last time he ran,” Rosario explained. “He laid in a good spot, perfect, he liked where he was, and then coming for home I thought we got him but that was a tough race. He did everything right. I thought for a second we got him but you know how it goes.”

All Forty Under’s wins have been on the turf making his career record 17-4-1-2. His thrilling win in the Bradley builds his stack to $352,246. — Kilroy

(Pass the Plate / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

The Last Shall Be First and the First Shall Be Passed —

Pass the Plate Passes All

Favorites Abscond, Janelle Monae both disappoint

 

After taking a bump and being steadied at the start, all Pass the Plate had to do to win was rally from last to first. The 28th running of the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes ended with the fuchsia silks of Silverton Hill flying down the center of the Stall Wilson turf course, as Pass the Plate gamely knocked off her foes in a fury, saving a head length for the last jump over Lovely Ride.

“I watched all of her replays,” jockey Marcelino Pedroza Jr. said, “especially the one where she won here at Fair Grounds [on 12-26-20 in the Pago Hop]. I wasn’t worried when they shut me off out of the gate. I said, well, let’s be patient because I was confident she was going to come running. I had the momentum, I thought I was going to go by and open up, but she kind of hung a little bit on me. It was a long run to get to the front. She probably used it up (her run). We got to the wire first so that’s all that matters.”

Stumbling out of the gate didn’t stop the speedy Adelaide Miss from setting the fractions of 23:79 and 48.52, and turning for home it seemed like the 14.20-1 longshot could win. Stalking the leader from the three-path under Reylu Gutierrez, Lovely Ride (4.20-1) went outside the front runner in the second turn to begin to make her bid, beating 4th-place finisher Brazilian import Janelle Monae to the punch. 1.50-1 favorite Abscond followed Lovely Ride but could never muster the kick to threaten, finishing sixth. Soon after Lovely Ride took the lead from Adelaide Miss, trainer Paul McGee’s Pass the Plate finished her chores at 1:44.15 and feasted on the finish line. As did her backers who reaped a generous 8.60-1.

“She’s a proven grass filly who won [the Pago Hop] on the grass here last year,” McGee said. “She likes this course and Marcelino (jockey Pedroza) rode a really good race on her. She sure does have that late kick. She comes running every time.”

Now flush with $434,224, don’t be shy about passing the plate to this mare in the pews tomorrow morning, and congratulate the Krantz winner on a lifetime record of 21-5-2-7. — Kilroy