Mandaloun and Essential Quality won’t run in Preakness


Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality and runner-up Mandaloun will not run against Medina Spirit in the Preakness, trainer Brad Cox said.

Cox said he’ll skip the second jewel of the Triple Crown with those two horses and Caddo River, who was scratched from the Derby for spiking a fever. Mandaloun finished a half length back of Medina Spirit as a 27-1 long shot, while Essential Quality was fourth after going off as the 3-1 Derby favorite.

Mandaloun jogged this week, and Cox said the horse was moving extremely well with good energy, adding Mandaloun showed “everything you want to see from a colt that performed at a high level at a mile and a quarter race.”

But the decision was made to skip the May 15 Preakness in Baltimore in the hope of keeping Mandaloun ready for more races as a 3-year-old and beyond.

Mandaloun “ran extremely well and hard and just feel like we would like to give him some time,” Cox said on a National Thoroughbred Racing Association conference call. “We just feel like in the best interest of the horse to run him back in two weeks is just not the right thing for him.”

The Travers Stakes this August at Saratoga Race Course is the new target for Essential Quality, who fell short of being the first gray horse to win the Derby since Giacomo in 2005. Cox said Caddo River, who has early speed and was expected to challenge Medina Spirit out of the gate in the Preakness, will be pointed to the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 29.

Without Mandaloun or Essential Quality in the Preakness, Medina Spirit’s biggest challenger could be Concert Tour, who’s also trained by two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert. Owner Gary West opted to pass on the Derby with Concert Tour after a disappointing third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, and Baffert expects the horse to be ready for the Preakness.

“I kept working him like I was going to the Preakness,” Baffert said. “We thought, `Is he good enough, is he training well enough to run in the Preakness?’ And I said yes, and so (West) said we’ll run it and (we’ll) see if he’s as good as we think he is or maybe he’s not as good as we think he is or whatever, but at least we’ll give him a chance.”

Medina Spirit surprised Baffert by going wire to wire with jockey John Velazquez aboard to win the Derby at 12-1. And while Baffert said he can’t compare Medina Spirit to Triple Crown champions American Pharoah from 2015 and Justify from 2018, the colt who gave the Hall of Fame trainer his record seventh Derby win is on pace to try to make it a record eight in the Preakness.

“Medina Spirit, he’s really shown us something,” Baffert said. “He’s really improved.”

Medina Spirit jogged a mile at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky and stood in the starting gate before a light gallop. Baffert said the plan is for “normal gallops from here on out,” with the horse expected to arrive at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore by the middle of next week.

The Preakness draw is set for Monday.

Churchill Downs moves meet to Ellis Park to examine protocols following 12 horse deaths

churchill downs
Michael Clevenger and Erik Mohn/USA TODAY NETWORK

Churchill Downs will suspend racing and move the remainder of its spring meet to Ellis Park in order to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of safety and surface protocols in the wake of 12 horse fatalities the past month at the home of the Kentucky Derby.

No single factor has been identified as a potential cause for the fatalities or pattern detected, according to a release, but the decision was made to relocate the meet “in an abundance of caution.”

“What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in Friday’s release. “We need to take more time to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all of the details and circumstances so that we can further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols.”

Racing will continue at Churchill Downs through Sunday before shifting to the CDI-owned racing and gaming facility in Henderson, Kentucky. Ellis Park’s meet was scheduled to start July 7 and run through Aug. 27 but will now expand with Friday’s announcement.

Ellis Park will resume racing on June 10.

The move comes a day after track superintendent Dennis Moore conducted a second independent analysis of Churchill Downs’ racing and training surfaces as part of an emergency summit called this week by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) with the track and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Meetings took place in Lexington, Kentucky, and at the Louisville track.

The head of the federally created oversight agency suggested ahead of the summit that it could recommend pausing the meet and that Churchill Downs would accept that recommendation.

Churchill Downs’ release stated that expert testing raised no concerns and concluded that the surface was consistent with the track’s prior measurements. Even so, it chose to relocate “in alignment” with HISA’s recommendation to suspend the meet to allow more time for additional investigation.

“We appreciate their thoughtfulness and cooperation through these challenging moments,” HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said in a statement. “We will continue to seek answers and work with everyone involved to ensure that horses are running safely at Churchill Downs again in the near future.”

Carstanjen insisted that relocating the remainder of the spring meet to Ellis Park would maintain the industry ecosystem with minor disruption. He also said he was grateful to Kentucky horsemen for their support as they work to find answers.

Rick Hiles, the president of Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, questioned the move, especially since there’s no conclusive evidence that Churchill Downs’ surface is the problem.

“We all want to find solutions that will improve safety for horses,” Hiles said in a statement. “However, we need to discuss allowing trainers and veterinarians to use therapeutic medications that greatly lessen the risk of breakdowns.

“Drastic steps, such as relocating an active race meet, should only be considered when it is certain to make a difference.”

The latest development comes a day after Churchill Downs and HISA each implemented safety and performance standards to address the spate of deaths.

HISA will conduct additional post-entry screening of horses to identify those at increased risk for injury. Its Integrity and Welfare Unit also will collect blood and hair samples for all fatalities for use while investigating a cause.

Churchill Downs announced it would immediately limit horses to four starts during a rolling eight-week period and impose ineligibility standards for poor performers. The track is also pausing incentives, such as trainer start bonuses and limiting purse payouts to the top five finishers instead of every finisher.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance


NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.