Derby runner-up Mandaloun returns Sunday at Monmouth Park

Alton Strupp/Courier Journal

OCEANPORT, N.J. — Mandaloun is returning to racing for the first time since finishing second in the Kentucky Derby, for which he could still be named the winner if Medina Spirit is disqualified for failing a postrace drug test.

Trainer Brad Cox on Thursday entered Mandaloun in the Grade 1 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sunday. The 1-1/16 miles race for 3-year-olds drew a field of five and could serve as a prep race for the $1 million Haskell Stakes at Monmouth on July 17.

Mandaloun is being driven from Kentucky and is scheduled to arrive at the New Jersey shore racetrack on Friday.

“I want him to get some experience at Monmouth and I’m looking to use the race as a fitness tool, as a prep from the Haskell,” said Cox, who plans to fly in from Kentucky on Sunday morning to watch the race in person. “I didn’t want to go 11 weeks without a race. This was the race we thought made the most sense on the calendar.”

Postrace testing showed Medina Spirit had the anti-inflammatory steroid betamethasone in his system on May 1, when he was first to cross the Kentucky Derby finish line. A second sample also tested positive.

Trainer Bob Baffert and owner Amr Zedan filed a lawsuit in Kentucky on Monday, asking a judge to order racing officials to conduct more testing before stripping Medina Spirit of the Derby victory, which would take the purse money from them but not affect bettors because the result was made official.

In a civil action filed in Franklin Circuit Court, Baffert and Zedan Racing Stables asked for a temporary injunction barring the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission from taking action against their horse until additional tests can be run.

Two years ago, disqualified Kentucky Derby winner Maximum Security finished second as the 1-20 favorite to King for a Day in the Pegasus Stakes before going on to win the Haskell.

Mandaloun, a Kentucky-bred colt owned by Juddmonte Racing, has won three of six career starts and earned $961,252.

Cox posted his first win in a Triple Crown race on Saturday when 2-year-old champion Essential Quality won the Belmont Stakes in New York. The colt is shipping to Saratoga in July and pointing to the Travers Stakes.

The Louisville-born trainer said he’d like to keep Mandaloun and Essential Quality from racing against each other again for as long as possible. Essential Quality finished fourth in the Derby after going off as the favorite.

Mandaloun drew the No. 2 post for the Pegasus Stakes on Sunday and will be ridden by Florent Geroux.

Brooklyn Strong, who finished 15th in the Derby, drew the No. 1 post and will be ridden by Abner Adano. Dr Jack has the No. 3 post position, with Paco Lopez listed to ride. Weyburn, the long shot winner of the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes, got the No. 4 spot for Dylan David.

Lugamo and Angel Cruz will have the outside No. 5 post. The colt has not raced since a 12th-place finish on March 27 in the UAE Derby in Dubai.

The Pegasus Stakes odds were not immediately released.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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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.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.